Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters

The Merry Pranksters were a group of thirteen individuals and Ken Kesey that traveled across the country in 1964 in a renovated school bus, which the caravan had named “Further”, causing all sorts of mischief, experimenting with all sorts of substances, and “turning on” a nation to the wonders of free love and happiness. They wanted to share in the wonder they had found from using drugs.  Ken Kesey was seen as the leader of the group because he was the one providing a majority of the funding, due to his recent success with the publication of his newest book. The caravan took off from Kesey’s ranch in California (where they had been living in a commune of sorts) and headed east with the goal of making it to the World Fair that was being held in New York later that year.

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Over the course of the voyage the Pranksters experimented with a plethora of different drugs, including LSD, marijuana, amphetamines, and other drugs that were illegal at the time. The group had the mission in mind of spreading the joy and fun that cam along with experimenting with different drugs. Over the course of their voyage, The Pranksters met up with many iconic figures of the counterculture movement. They attempted to meet with Timothy Leary (the man who created their ever loved LSD), but unfortunately when they showed up at his mansion he was coming down off an acid binge so didn’t feel like spending too much time with the group. The Pranksters are also credited with introducing LSD to the infamous biker gang – The Hells Angels. While on their tour the gang tried their hardest to keep video evidence of their adventures. Since they were highly intoxicated most of the time, much of the footage is useless, but the footage that could be interpreted was made into a film.

By the end of the 1960s the Merry Pranksters were starting to become less merry. The government had made LSD illegal in 1965 and Kesey was wanted for that reason. He fled to Mexico for a few short months before returning to the US and got caught in San Francisco wearing a Captain America costume. The majority of the other Pranksters had also gotten in trouble with the law for their involvement with the illegal substance. A few of the Pranksters found it hard to move on since they had spent a good amount of time living with no responsibilities. In 2001 Kesey died due to liver complications. After his death the remaining Pranksters got together for a tribute ride across the country.

Maddie Marchionna

Helmore, Edward. “How Ken Kesey’s LSD-fuelled Bus Trip Created the Psychedelic 60s.” The Guardian. The Guardian, 6 Aug. 2011. Web.

Moynahan, Julian. “Not so Merry Pranksters.” The Observer (1901- 2003): 30. Apr 27 1969. ProQuest. Web. 10 Apr. 2015

Published on April 13th 2015

Revised April 27 2015

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