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The Prankster and the Conspiracy: The Story of Kerry Thornley and How He Met Oswald and Inspired the Counterculture Paperback – November 1, 2003
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More alarmingly, Gorightly recounts allegations that Thornley commited acts of sexual abuse against children. Gorightly's case here is pretty slim, and basically amounts to two instances of hearsay, but the allegation changes the character of this story substantially. It is disheartening to learn that the man who you thought was a bodhisattva may just have been a homeless, schizophrenic, child molester with very good PR. (Of course, the same could be said of Socrates...)
Of course, none of this should detract from the appeal of the book, which is very well-written and downright fascinating. Especially interesting are the parts about "brother-in-law," the shadowy CIA/neo-nazi/cowboy who Thornley came to believe had brainwashed him into assisting Lee Harvey Oswald. Did he exist? Was he really E. Howard Hunt? Was Thornley insane, brainwashed by the CIA, or both? With this discussion Gorightly masterfully brings the reader to the threshold of Chapel Perilous and, by the end of the book, the reader may question his or her own sanity.
As the title suggests, The "Prankster and the Conspiracy" is primarily about the nexus between Thornley and the Kennedy assassination, and does not purport to be a full biography of Thornley the man. Still, it is remarkably insightful into his personal character and is based on information from people who were close to him.
This is also maybe the first book to be written about Discordianism (rather than simply being a discordian holy text) which purports to be historically accurate. Anyone interested in Our Lady of Chaos will be interested to hear the backstory to Thornley and Hill's revelations...
Kerry was unique, and that's one of the reasons why I liked him. You could seldom predict his response. When I got the book (THE PRANKSTER AND THE CONSPIRACY), I was afraid to open it, afraid that his uniqueness would be misinterpreted by the author, afraid that his madness, particularly, would be misunderstood.
But I had nothing to fear. The author, Adam Gorightly, apparently had excellent sources, and he characterized them accurately. Most importantly, he let them tell the story themselves.
The story is about an extremely brilliant and funny man, who had a lot of friends, and who get involved with "the authorities" over the assassination of JFK. I will let you read the book to find out how that all came out, but the important thing was that at that same time, his personality disintegrated into paranoid schizophrenia. He was never institutionalize.
The people who were his friends, many of whom are described in the book, are quite interesting people, too. I knew and warmly liked many of them. Even when he was at his most paranoid, he could laugh with friends, even make new friends -- unlike most paranoids, who often spend most of their time alone. And usually he unconsciously chose them for their kindness.
Along the way, you can read about what to do with 100 naked bananas (for the Mellow Yellow con), what happened at the first LA Human Be-in when a sociologist's theory about LSD was proved all wet, and why a (perhaps imaginary) group of helicopters in Tampa brought everything to a head.
It is a good story, and it is told truthfully.