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John Simkin

Ken Kesey, MKULTRA, and One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

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At Stanford in 1959, Ken Kesey volunteered to take part in a CIA-financed study named Project MKULTRA at the Menlo Park Veterans Hospital where he worked as a night aide. The project studied the effects of psychoactive drugs, particularly LSD, psilocybin, mescaline, cocaine, AMT, and DMT on people. Kesey wrote many detailed accounts of his experiences with these drugs, both during the Project MKULTRA study and in the years of private experimentation that followed.

Kesey talked in detail to the patients in the hospital. Kesey did not believe that these patients were insane, rather that society had pushed them out because they did not fit the conventional ideas of how people were supposed to act and behave. Kesey's role as a medical guinea pig, as well as his stint working at a state veterans' hospital, inspired him to write One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest in 1962.

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At Stanford in 1959, Ken Kesey volunteered to take part in a CIA-financed study named Project MKULTRA at the Menlo Park Veterans Hospital where he worked as a night aide. The project studied the effects of psychoactive drugs, particularly LSD, psilocybin, mescaline, cocaine, AMT, and DMT on people. Kesey wrote many detailed accounts of his experiences with these drugs, both during the Project MKULTRA study and in the years of private experimentation that followed.

Kesey talked in detail to the patients in the hospital. Kesey did not believe that these patients were insane, rather that society had pushed them out because they did not fit the conventional ideas of how people were supposed to act and behave. Kesey's role as a medical guinea pig, as well as his stint working at a state veterans' hospital, inspired him to write One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest in 1962.

The Grateful Dead's lyricist Robert Hunter also participated in the Menlo Park experiments. Later the Dead and Kesey were to hook up via the Acid Tests. The Menlo Park experiments were run by Leo Hollister. The books Storming Heaven and Acid Dreams are both good sources on this and much more. Some of the audiotapes of Kesey from the experiments survive and are used in Magic Trip, the new documentary film about Kesey's cross country bus trip.

Kesey attributes a peyote-induced vision to his creation of Chief Bromden. He wrote a good deal of the book while tripping. Some of it he wrote under influence and while on the night shift on the mental ward. His drawings of the inmates appear in the 40th anniversary edition of the novel.

Kesey was a great American. He also wrote an eloquent essay on driving through America in the wake of jfk's assassination which i'm trying to find. "Loss of Innocence," Newsweek, November 29, 1983. Kesey's thoughts on the assassination of JFK.

Edited by Martin Blank

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At Stanford in 1959, Ken Kesey volunteered to take part in a CIA-financed study named Project MKULTRA at the Menlo Park Veterans Hospital where he worked as a night aide. The project studied the effects of psychoactive drugs, particularly LSD, psilocybin, mescaline, cocaine, AMT, and DMT on people. Kesey wrote many detailed accounts of his experiences with these drugs, both during the Project MKULTRA study and in the years of private experimentation that followed.

Kesey talked in detail to the patients in the hospital. Kesey did not believe that these patients were insane, rather that society had pushed them out because they did not fit the conventional ideas of how people were supposed to act and behave. Kesey's role as a medical guinea pig, as well as his stint working at a state veterans' hospital, inspired him to write One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest in 1962.

The Grateful Dead's lyricist Robert Hunter also participated in the Menlo Park experiments. Later the Dead and Kesey were to hook up via the Acid Tests. The Menlo Park experiments were run by Leo Hollister. The books Storming Heaven and Acid Dreams are both good sources on this and much more. Some of the audiotapes of Kesey from the experiments survive and are used in Magic Trip, the new documentary film about Kesey's cross country bus trip.

Kesey attributes a peyote-induced vision to his creation of Chief Bromden. He wrote a good deal of the book while tripping. Some of it he wrote under influence and while on the night shift on the mental ward. His drawings of the inmates appear in the 40th anniversary edition of the novel.

Kesey was a great American. He also wrote an eloquent essay on driving through America in the wake of jfk's assassination which i'm trying to find. "Loss of Innocence," Newsweek, November 29, 1983. Kesey's thoughts on the assassination of JFK.

Yea, Martin, I'd like to read that if you find it.

I crossed paths with Ken Kesey in Dayton, Ohio around 1970. He gave a talk at the University of Dayton and stayed overnight at the home of my friend John Judge. I remember him being offered a room at the school but he slept on Judge's couch that night. We stayed up talking for hours, and I recall him saying that he sold the movie rights to Cookoos Nest to Kurt Douglas for $10,000, a deal signed on a bar napkin, and used the money to buy the old school bus they called "Further." The bus figures prominently in the book Electric Cook Aid Acid test.

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Guest Tom Scully

The Loss of Innocence Ken Kesey, 48, is the author of "One Flew Over the Cuckoo 's Nest" and other works.

I was back in New York with my wife and family for the opening of "Cuckoo's Nest" on Broadway. I had just finished my second novel and I wasn't working on anything else; I was waiting for whatever came up to come up.

After the opening, my wife and family flew back, and I drove back with this friend of mine, George Walker, and another guy that we sprung from the nuthouse.

And we were about half a day out of New York, headed west and eating peyote. It makes the driving interesting, especially the late fall in that northern part of America.

We were in Pennsylvania when the news began to come in over the radio that the president had been shot. And I never paid much attention to politics, but as we drove, and the news came in over that car radio, and we stopped in at service....

6171751238_1654b72293_b.jpg

.....We liked the feeling of the country and the look of the country and the look of the people. It was like a light was shining and everything else was foggy. As we drove farther across, the weather began to get worse, and the information was com- KESEY: AN AMERICAN ing in steadily all the time. At first he was wounded, and they wouldn't say whether he was dead, and then you hear about Officer Tippet being killed, and then you hear about Oswald, and by that time we were in Michigan. So all the way across the United States, we're involved in this, all these characters like old radio-fiction characters in my mind. We pulled into Jackson Hole, Wyo. as it was sort of finally coming to its end. It was blizzarding, and during that afternoon, the road finally was just too snowy to go on anymore. We pulled up and stopped at a closed-down station, a big red, white and blue Chevron. Three days on peyote and national grief, and looking up in the sky in this blizzard coming down, and then this red, white and blue Chevron, and I thought, "This is no accident. This is something very, very special and deep."

And I began to cry, not so much for the president as for something American that was innocent and bright-eyed and capable. And it's not been the same since; we lost the last person I can think of that we could believe in. I remember when they finally said the president was dead, George Walker said, "The son of a bitch has killed him." He didn't say some son of a bitch, he said the son of a bitch. We thought we didn't have him. The European nations had him, the Muslim crazies had him, but the United States? No, we were above that. And this was a real loss of that opinion of ourselves as an innocent, wonderful, above-board nation. It was a loss of our feeling of invulnerability — that you could walk across the nation and be all right, nobody is going to hurt you. That next spring, we packed up to do the same thing, just drive across the country in a bus. It spun off of this feeling of seeing the landscape of the American people in this new way. I think the whole hippie movement, this love-every- body feeling for each other, was born of that feeling. It was born of the death. When God wants to really wake up a nation, he has to use somebody that counts. When God wants i to get your attention, he always thas to use blood.

As I recall, the fear did not settle in all at once; before I was 20, I hitchhiked alone, almost unafraid, with $30 in my pocket, from LA to New York, and I recall listening to lyrics like these through stereo headphones to take the edge off of the anxiety that sometimes crept in while under the influence.....

....And the time's slowed down till dawn

It's a cold room and the walls ask

Where you've gone

Sometimes In Winter

I love you when the good times

Seem like mem'ries in the spring

That never came

Sometimes In Winter

I wish the empty streets

Would fill with laughter from the tears

That ease my pain

A different time....

Edited by Tom Scully

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