Ken Kesey & The Merry Pranksters

In 1959, Ken Kesey, a graduate student in Creative Writing at Stanford

University, volunteered to take part in a government drug research program at Menlo Park Veterans Hospital that tested a variety of psychoactive drugs such as LSD, which was legal at the time, psilocybin, mescaline, and amphetamine IT-290. Over a period of several weeks, Kesey ingested these hallucinogens and wrote of his drug-induced experiences for government researchers. From this experience, Kesey wrote his most celebrated novel, One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest, and began his own experimentations with psychedelic drugs. His goal was to break through conformist thought and ultimately forge a reconfiguration of American society. In the early 1960s, Neal Cassady showed up to meet the famous author and became the most celebrated member of Kesey's fledgling group, the Merry Pranksters. Much of the hippie aesthetic that would dawn on the San Francisco scene in the late sixties can be traced back to the Merry Pranksters who openly used psychoactive drugs, wore outrageous attire, performed bizarre acts of street theater, and engaged in peaceful confrontation with not only the laws of conformity, but with the mores of conventionality. As Kesey put it: "What we hoped was that we could stop the coming end of the world." By 1966, when Kesey had been apprehended as a fugitive from the law, he denounced the curative powers of LSD as temporary and delusional, but nothing he said could stop the psychedelic era that was about to explode in San Francisco.

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