Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Stranger in a Strange Land: The Curious Life of Ronald Stark Part III

Welcome to the third installment in my examination of the life and times of LSD baron Ronald Hadley Stark, one of the most bizarre figures the 1960s counterculture spawned (which in and of itself is something of an accomplishment). Stark is a difficult figure to get a handle on and I am greatly indebted to the work of Skilluminati for the excellent article published on that website several years ago concerning Stark. Those of you looking for a preview of where this series is headed are strongly advised to check out that piece. But moving along.

During part one I addressed what little is known of his background prior to 1969, with a special emphasis on his alleged ties to the Bellevue Medical Hospital and to possessing patents his father smuggled out of Nazi Germany. With the second installment I noted Stark's obsession with Robert A. Heinlein's The Moon is a Harsh Mistress and briefly addressed Heinlein's deep background. I also touched upon Stark's time in Paris during May 68, his mingling with radical groups such as the IRA and the Angry Brigade committed to the "armed struggle" and the relationship that developed between the Brotherhood of Eternal Love and the Weather Underground after Stark became involved with the former.

Stark's possible modus operandi? 
At the conclusion of that piece I noted that Stark was the only figured linked to the Brotherhood whom authorities declined to pursue charges against despite his by that time decade-spanning endeavors in the international drug trade. With this piece I'd like to begin addressing Stark's British LSD operations which still have not gained nearly as much attention as his dealings with the legendary Brotherhood of Eternal Love (at least in the US, anyway). So, let us start things off my noting a partnership that developed in 1968 between two figures whom Stark would soon befriend:
"In 1968 Richard Kemp, a Liverpool University science drop-out and his partner, Christine Bott, a doctor of medicine, met David Solomon, the writer on LSD and cannabis research. At Solomon's request Kemp attempt to synthesize THC, the active ingredient of cannabis. This venture failed but in early 1969 they decided to try making LSD after Solomon managed to obtain some ergotamine tartrate. Kemp got to work in a makeshift lab in the shed of his parents' house in Liverpool and succeeded in making dark syrupy acid. Although it was rather poor quality, it was good enough to sell and Kemp decided to have another go a few months later. At this point, summer 1969, Ronald Stark arrived in Solomon's house in Cambridge and introduced himself, saying he had obtained Solomon's address someone he met in Parisian radical circles. Solomon soon told Stark about Kemp's promising work and at Stark's request, invited Kemp to meet 'a man with a million dollar inheritance.' A meeting was convened at Stark's rooms at the Oxford and Cambridge Club on Pall Mall."
(Acid: A New Secret History of LSD, David Black, pg. 119) 

Before we can get on with the fruit's of this meeting, a bit need's to be said about the enigmatic figure of David Solomon. Here's a bit concerning his background:
"David Solomon left the United States with his family in 1966 as a rising authority on drugs. The man who first took mescaline as a magazine assignment after reading Huxley's books turned from jazz criticism to a series of works in which he pulled together and edited the views of artists, philosophers and experimenters on drugs. The books on LSD and marijuana added, for their readers at least, a gloss of respectability to the growing drug culture. Many of them might well grow out of the culture eventually, but Solomon did not. In his early forties he did not shrug aside the faith he had acquired. The psychedelics – to which he had been introduced in the first fevered period of lay interest, becoming part of an LSD pipeline in the IFIF days – were a natural part of an unconventional philosophy he already accepted.
"From the United States the Solomon family moved to Majorca where their friends included the poet Robert Graves. But they did not stay long. Arrested by the police for drug possession, Solomon left the island without paying the court fine. In late 1967, he moved to Britain and settled in Cambridge."
(The Brotherhood of Eternal Love, Stewart Tendler & David May, pgs. 140-141)
Let us pause here so I can make a few points. The above-mentioned IFIF stands for International Federation for Freedom. This organization was a nonprofit group established by Timothy Leary and Richard Alpert probably some time in early 1963. It was a advocacy group for psychedelics and quickly attracted some three-thousand dues paying members. Presumably Solomon was among this group. In summer 1963 the group established its headquarters at a hotel in Zihuatanejo, Mexico and soon drew the ire of local authorities. Some six weeks later they returned to United States after being booted out of Mexico.

It was at this point that Leary encountered the notorious William Mellon Hitchcock (of whom I've written much more on before here) and relocated to the heir's family estate in Millbrook, New York. For a time Leary and his followers would reside here. It was at this location that "Farmer" John Griggs journeyed to speak to Leary before founding the Brotherhood. And it was here a representative of Stark's would travel to and be sent in the direction of the Brotherhood. The go-between was David Solomon, who seems to have been involved with Leary for several years by this point.

"Farmer John Griggs (right) with Leary (center)
Leary was hardly the only acquaintance Solomon had by this point with a interest in psychedelics, however. There's also the curious relationship his family, as noted above, had with the famed poet and mythologist Robert Graves. Graves himself expressed an interest in psychedelics in some of his mythological works such as The White Goddess and The Greek Myths. He also kept some interesting company during his time on Majorca.
"... Graves was a close friend of William Sargant, author of the standard text on mind control and brainwashing, The Battle for the Mind, to which book Graves even contributed a chapter. According to Sargant's introduction, he credits Graves with having encouraged him to complete the work while he stayed at Graves' home in Majorca, Spain..."
(Sinister Forces Book I, Peter Levenda, pg. 91)
Sargant published The Battle for the Mind in 1957, so presumably he would not have been around when the Solomon family was there. But Graves' association with Sargant is none the less interesting in the context of this project. It has of course long been alleged that Sargant had links to MI5 and/or the CIA, but as HP Albarelli noted in A Terrible Mistake, this association has not been conclusively proven. Thus, it seems unlikely that Solomon's relationship with Graves had much bearing on his later endeavors.

This is far from the only brush Solomon had with the US intelligence community, however. Indeed, he had likely been quite active before the family moved to Majorca in the mid-1960s.
"Solomon claimed to be an ex-member of the Communist Party of the United States (CP-US), although when the British police investigated him years later in Operation Julie, they were told by the FBI that this could not be verified. It is worth mentioning here that although by the end of the 1950s CP-US's membership had shrunk to under 5,000 after the Hungarian Revolution and Khrushchev's secret speech, J. Edgar Hoover maintained up to 1,500 FBI informers in the party. If Hoover had been paying 1,500 membership dues for informers, who would have had to prove themselves as good recruiters and paper-sellers, then the FBI must have kept alive American Communism in the middle of the Cold War!
"Inspector Dick Lee of the Operation, Julie squad learned that Solomon had served with the OSS during the Second World War. Solomon had another, later, intelligence connection: he worked for Ronald Stark in the late sixties and early seventies, although there is no evidence that Solomon was working directly for the CIA during this period."
(Acid: A New Secret History of LSD, David Black, pg. 64)
the insignia of the OSS
It should be noted that the OSS conducted limited tests on drugs as "truth serums" during WWII. Some of the drugs considered included mescaline, scopolamine and cannabis. It is unknown whether Solomon had any ties to these tests or whether he was even aware of them. Regardless, he had become a vocal advocate for LSD and cannabis in the early 1960s before such things were exactly common, especially for a middle-aged academic (though hardly unheard of as Leary demonstrates).

But moving along. Shortly after Solomon introduced Stark to the above-mentioned Richard Kemp the chemist would be put to work on producing a batch of LSD. During this period, late 1969/early 1970, the Brotherhood of Eternal Love was still going strong and ties were forged between them and what would become the nucleus of  Britain's so-called "Microdot Gang" that would go on to dominate the LSD trade by the mid-1970s:
"The Great British LSD plot, hatched within weeks of Stark's first meeting with the Brotherhood in California, strengthened its transatlantic dimension when, in autumn 1969, Stark introduced Kemp to the Brotherhood's chemists, Nick Sand and Lester Friedman. Bill Hitchcock and the Brotherhood's other chemist, Tim Scully – who were about to detach themselves from the Brotherhood's activities – came to England to help Sand set up a company named 'Alban Feeds' with two English businessmen...
"The official purpose of the new Alban Feeds company, based in Dunstable, was to develop livestock feed for Third World countries. But the $100,000 the Brotherhood invested in the company was intended for the procurement of materials they needed for making LSD; they wanted five kilos of lysergic acid-base, 20 kilos of ergotamine tartrate, plus a range of other chemicals that were being traded legally. At Christmas 1969, Ron Stark and Richard Kemp took a trip to Morocco, where they drew up a contract of employment for Kemp to work at a laboratory tucked away on the premises of the PACS chemical company in Paris in the 13th Arrondissement. In the first production run, Kemp created a kilo of LSD for export to the USA and in the process had upon a method of making an even stronger and purer formula for future production. He discovered that freezing the solution could greatly speed up the process of making it... 
"In May 1970 Richard Kemp, Ron Stark, Nick Sand and Lester Friedman held talks lasting four days on future plans of the 'Atlantic Brotherhood.' One sensitive point for discussion was a trip to Britain that Kemp and Simon Walton had made from France. They traveled in Stark's Ferrari 250-GT to buy an infra-red spectrometer but had been pulled by customs, who checked out Walton and discovered he had a heroin conviction. The car was searched, but the customs failed to see the significance of documents on the backseat relating to the purchase of a massive nine kilos of ergotamine tartrate.
"Kemp was beginning to wonder if his freedom might be one of Stark's lesser concerns. Kemp had now been assigned to work on Stark's project for a new synthesis of THC, which he hoped would be as strong as LSD and eventually as cheap to make. With a huge acid production-run just completed, Kemp was not happy about doing all of the work in the lab on night-shift, while Stark and friends were out having fun and adventures, and when money promised to Kemp was not forthcoming. To make matters even less bearable, Stark made clear his disapproval of visits from Christine Bott and Kemp felt 'sexually harassed' by Stark, which may only have been hetero-sexist paranoia.
"According to an informant of the police Operation Julie squad, later set up to investigate LSD production, one of the major Brotherhood figures visited Stark and Kemp in Paris and advised them to clean up; they did and the Paris laboratory ceased operating from that time. When Stark transferred the work to another laboratory in Orleans, France, Kemp found conditions even less palatable and decided to quit.
"Stark had claimed he had been warned of US Drug Enforcement Agency interest in his Paris operation by a source in the US, and by an 'old pal' he said worked with the CIA station at the London Embassy. In the latter case Stark apparently had a 'chance' meeting with the agent, who told him there was 'impending trouble' for him in Paris.
"Did the CIA below a DEA operation to save Stark? According to a classified document released under the US Freedom of Information Act, not only did the CIA have an interest in the drugs trade during this period, the agency also kept a close eye on the activities of the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs (later renamed the Drug Enforcement Agency). The CIA memo said: 'It appears that the activities of the BNDD, ongoing and planned, could, under the appropriate arrangements, provide valuable information to the agency... For this reason, they will be followed very closely.'"
(Acid: A New Secret History of LSD, David Black, pgs. 120-122)
Nick Sand, one of the Brotherhood members who worked with what would become the "Microdot Gang" during their early days
Indeed, there were a lot of shenanigans the CIA was playing in relation to the BNDD/DEA during this period (which never really stopped, actually) and France (specifically the Corsican Mafia) was an especially hot spot during the early 1970s. But such a topic is far beyond the scope of this series, though the curious reader is advised to consult The Great Heroin Coup and/or either of Douglas Valentine's histories of the BNDD/DEA for further details. Moving along.

This was reportedly the end of Kemp's association with Stark yet Kemp would go into business with David Solomon again and Solomon in turn would continue to have ties with Stark. At one point Solomon's behavior became so brash that Stark was called in to temporarily remove Solomon, whom he greatly disliked, from Kemp's operation. During this time Stark was also in contact with Stephen Abrams, the founder of the cannabis lobby group SOMA whom Solomon and Kemp had been involved with. SOMA also had ties to highly reputable figures such as the legendary physicist Francis Crick and the radical psychiatrist R.D. Laing. Stark was able to procure an audience with the latter via Abrams and made a modest proposal to Laing:
"Abrams told me: 'The Stark business culminated when I arranged for him to be analyzed by Ronnie Laing. It was at Stark's request. He was interested in what Laing would do with him and also what he could get out of Laing. So at a certain point Stark insisted on taking acid with Ronnie and Utta Laing.
"'I think Utta took a small dose of 150 to 200 "mikes" (micrograms), Stark took a large dose of 300 or 500 and insisted that Laing take a huge dose, though actually even a large dose of acid just tends to start off the process. The three of them have this trip, and at the top of the trip Stark makes his pitch.
 "'I heard this from all three participants – from Ronnie, Utta and from Stark – they all told the same story. Stark said that Leary was on the run; Leary' story was over and Leary wasn't the right chap; they wanted Laing to take over, not as hired help but as Boss.
"'All the pharmaceutical companies, all the protected investments would come under his control. If he agreed he was now worth 50 million dollars and everybody worked for him, including Stark – that's the way Stark put it. Then to cap it off Stark said, "Look, respectfully Ronnie, what are your orders?" And Ronnie said to Stark, "Get the fuck out of my house!" He threw him bodily into the street as he was well known to do to people sometimes.'"
(Acid: A New Secret History, David Black, pgs. 124-125)
Laing is an interesting figure we should consider for a moment. Here's a bit about his background and work:
"The surrealist perspective is echoed in that of Scottish psychiatrist R. D. Laing who, in his controversial and thought-provoking essay The Politics of Experience, makes many of the same points concerning schizophrenia and the possibilities of spiritual growth through madness. It should be noted that Laing also began his medical career in the army, in this case the British Army, where he worked as a psychiatrist before going on to the Tavistock Clinic. Laing agrees with the surrealists when he states that '... we are bemused and crazed creatures, strangers to our true selves, to one another, and to the spiritual and material world – mad, even, from an ideal standpoint we can glimpse but not adopt,' and, 'We are potentially men, but in an alienated state, and the state is not simply a natural system.' The Politics of Experience includes a final section, entitled 'The Bird of Paradise,' that would have satisfied many a surrealist, as it seems to be a free-association-like account of the journey into and out of madness..."
(Sinister Forces Book III, Peter Levenda, pgs. 100-101)
A bit more on Laing's ideology:
"... Dr. R. D. Laing's work at the Tavistock Institute, which involved experimental treatment with LSD. When Laing began his career in mental hospitals in the fifties, he was appalled by the way schizophrenics were so casually subjected to insulin injections and lobotomy. He found that by listening to schizophrenics 'talking to themselves', he could begin to make sense of what they were saying within the existential context of their family relationships and their experience of mental institutions which are often perceived as scary, uncomprehending set-ups that serve to increase the pressure to withdraw into oneself.
"In Laing's view, psychiatrists tended to operate as an elite police force employed to 'punish' by means of treatment those who society judged to be other than 'normal'. Schizophrenia, he argued, was in reality a psychosis; worse still, it was all too often an 'iatrogenic' disease, ie caused by the cure.
"In applying LSD in experimental therapy for schizophrenics at Kingsley Hall, the Scottish psychiatrist began to see madness as a journey toward sanity. The LSD treatment suggested to him that the patient, freed of ego by the experience, could re-engage with a lost world of repressed childhood memories. In The Politics of Experience, Laing argued that 'we can no longer assume that such a voyage is an illness'; rather it was 'itself a natural way of healing our own appalling state of alienation called normality.'"
(Acid: A New Secret History of LSD, David Black, pgs. 62-63)

Its easy to see why Stark had Laing pegged as a replacement for Leary, though Laing's ideology was even more democratic.
"Leary, however, was 'dismayed' by Laing's belief that insanity was a creative resolution of emotional conflicts. In Leary's view human evolution depended 'on finding and training the intelligent ones who will guide the species forward.' In this respect, Leary's position was similar to Aldous Huxley's..."
(Acid: A New Secret History of LSD, David Black, pg. 63)
Tavistock Institute, where Laing worked for so many years, is a favorite bugaboo of the conspiratorial right. The driving force behind these allegations is a former British intelligence agent named John Coleman. Coleman pegged Tavistock as the world's premier mind control institute and argued, with no supporting evidence, that it had created the 1960s counterculture as a means of controlling the masses.

While its entirely possible Tavistock played some type of role in Britain's behavioral modification experiments, this researcher has found no references to it in any of the scholarly accounts (i.e. John Marks, H.P. Albarreli, Gordon Thomas, etc) of the US intelligence community's work in similar fields. Nor has he found any mention of Laing.

And here we have Laing seemingly being offered to be set up as the (public) kingpin of the international LSD trade by Stark. Given how Leary ended up in a similar role, Laing probably made a wise decision in showing Stark the door. Given the scope of the criminal activities Stark was engaged in by this point Laing surely would have ended up imprisoned and discredited as well. But then again, that was likely the idea.

This was not the last time that an attempt was made to link Laing to this network either. When Operation Julie was rounding up Kemp's network Laing's name again came up.
"One evening in 1977, following the arrests in March, Lee contacted R. D. Laing and Steve Abrams through Bing Spear at the home office to suggest a 'social' get-together. Lee and Sergeant Allen Buxton, a former drummer with Georgie Fame's band, came round to Laing's home and announced that although both Laing and Abrams had been 'in the frame' at one stage in the investigation, they were now happily off the hook.
 "The police had been interested in both Abrams and Laing because of their long time association with David Solomon. Solomon's old friend, Gerry Thomas, had told Canadian police that Solomon 'was a member of an exclusive intellectual circle surrounding Dr. Ronald D. Laing, a top psychiatrist...', and that Christine Bott had attended Laing's seminars.
"Around that time, Laing was picked up by the Metropolitan Police. According to Abrams, Lee told them that they were 'in the clear' as far as Operation Julie was concerned but 'someone in the Met' had it in for the doctor:
"'I remember Laing calling me up to say he had been arrested; he stayed the night and then went off to court with me need the next morning. He was saying, "But I'm a famous psychiatrist, they can't do this to me".'
"The Met. had seized about 150 bottles of Czechoslovak LSD, but they were all tiny one-dose units of 150 micrograms, used for one small trip of acid. They had been supplied to Laing on license by the Ministry of Health to use with his patients, so he was in legal possession. The LSD turned out to be inert; Laing had forgotten about them. The case against him was dropped and he was awarded 500 pounds costs..."
 (Acid: A New SEcret History of LSD, David Black, pgs. 146-147)
Stephen Abrams, who also seems to have been targeted by Stark
So here we have Laing allegedly part of a circle featuring David Solomon, a former OSS officer and some time associate of Ronald Stark. And then, in the midst of Operation Julie, an attempt is made to bust Laing on inert LSD supplied to him by the Ministry of Health. Indeed, it does seem like someone had it out for Liang and that there were repeated attempts to discredit the controversial psychiatrist. But then again, the same could be said of so many individuals and organizations that became linked to the counterculture.

And it is here that I shall wrap things up for now. In the next installment I shall finish up with Operation Julie and the Microdot Gang and then move along to Stark's curious time in Italy. Stay tuned dear readers.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Stranger In a Strange Land: The Curious Times of Ronald Stark Part II

Welcome to the second installment in my examination of the life and times of enigmatic LSD baron Ronald Hadley Stark. As has been noted before, but it bares mentioning again, I'm deeply indebted to Skilluminati/Brainsturbator for some of the resources used in this series and the reader is advised to check out that site's excellent account of Stark. But moving along.

With the first installment of this series I briefly broke down Stark's early years, with a special emphasis on his alleged ties to Bellevue Medical Hospital and his claims that several patent he sold had come from Nazi Germany via his father. As I wrapped up with that installment I noted his initial meeting with the legendary "hippie mafia" known as the Brotherhood of Eternal Love.

members of the Brotherhood
There it was also noted that Stark proclaimed himself a kind of revolutionary. As several sources have noted, Stark had a very specific reference point for his idea of revolution: Robert A. Heinlein's The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress. Any sci-fi fan or libertarian worth their salt is well aware of this work, but given the influence it had on Stark it is was worth considering in depth:
"One of Stark's favorite books was Robert Heinlein's sci-fi classic of 1965, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. He saw it is a revolutionary 'handbook,' every bit as inspirational as the writings of Che Guevera. Heinlein's novel, a hard-boiled political fairytale set in the year 2075, is about a penal colony on the moon. The 3 million inhabitants – who are housed in huge domes containing artificial atmospheres – are either Earth deportees or their descendants. They cannot return because once their bodies adept to the moon's gravity they can never readapt to the gravity of the Earth (though on the plus side they live longer). The lunar prison is brutally administered by a United Nations-appointed governor, who the revolutionaries try to overthrow. One of them, a character called 'the Prof' explains:
"'... revolutions are not won by enlisting the masses. Revolution is a science for the few who are competent to practice it. It depends on correct organization and, above all, on communications.'
"The conspiracy starts with three people (more than three 'can't agree on where to have dinner' he says). These three in turn recruit two other people to form three new cells. This recruitment process continues until a large network of cells is built up. The advantage of the structure is that if cell members do not know each other's sub-cells, then they cannot give them away if captured. The drawback is that if a single cadre is arrested and cannot resist interrogation, then the enemy can arrest the half-a-dozen comrades he or she knows and thus reach the sub-cells. Thus, it becomes possible for the authorities to break the revolutionaries' chain of command and communication.
"A more sophisticated system discussed in Heinlein's book is a pyramid-of pyramids set-up – a sort of 'Internet' without the computers:
"'Where vertices are in common, each bloke knows one in an adjoining cell... Communications never break down because they run sideways as well as up and down. Something like a neural net.'
"Damage can be stemmed and repair because the cell member who discovers a breach in the network can pass warnings without having to know who receives the message.
"The notion of revolutionary organisation as an imitation of a 'natural' and 'organic' hierarchy is not new. Historically, August Blanqui, the most accomplished revolutionary conspirator in 19th-century France, had very similar ideas about revolutionary organisation. In Heinlein's futuristic version, however, the notion is given a neat twist: the conspiracy is helped by a miraculous super-computer, which is so powerful and complex that it 'wakes up' and becomes 'self-conscious'. The computer develops a sense of 'humour' about the 'stupidity' of the colony administrators, plus a 'rational will' to overthrow them.
"The conspirators use the computer to set up front companies and fraudulently appropriated funds on the terrestrial stock exchanges. They then use the money to set up secret facilities for development of revolutionary war technology. In this scenario, then, Big Brother's Brain, as scientific rationality, can be detached from ruling class control and harnessed to the revolution.
"As a 'rational anarchist' the Prof believes that the concept of the State has no existence except as 'physically exemplified in the acts of self-responsible individuals'. This implies that collaboration with the state is justifiable as a disguise within the strategy of undermining it from the inside. The revolutionary leader practices systematic deception of everyone apart from those who are required to be 'in the know' for particular functions.
"Stark's keen interest in these ideas is perhaps a pointer to his modus operandi..."
(Acid: A New Secret History of LSD, David Black, pgs. 149-151)

Over the course of his "career," Stark would have his fingers in a variety of pies spread out across the globe with the various regional players being scarcely aware of one another's existence. Stark was many things to many different people as we shall explore over the course of this series. It would seem that the organization of his various ventures were partly inspired by some of the ideas presented in Moon.

Before leaving Heinlein, it worth addressing in brief his curious life. Heinlein was a sixth generation German-American who hailed from a family deeply committed to the US Armed Forces: a family tradition held that Heinleins had fought in every American war since the Revolution. Heinlein's brother, Lawrence, was a career military man who served in the US Army, Air Force and Missouri National Guard, where he attained the rank of major general. Heinlein himself would serve in the Navy during his early days before ending up in California. Of this time frame, David McGowan writes:
"Another famous resident of Laurel Canyon was science-fiction writer Robert Heinlein, who resided at 8775 Lookout Mountain Avenue. Like so many other characters in this story, Heinlein was a graduate of the US Naval Academy at Annapolis and he had served as a naval officer. After that, he embarked on a successful writing career. And despite the fact that he was, by any objective measure, a rabid right-winger, his work was warmly embraced by the flower-power generation...
"Heinlein's best-known work is the novel Stranger in a Strange Land, which many in the Laurel Canyon scene found to be hugely influential. Ed Sanders has written, in The Family, that the book 'helped provide a theoretical basis for Manson's Family.' Charlie frequently used Strange Land terminology when addressing his flock, and he named his first Family-born son Valentine Michael Manson in honor of the book's lead character.
"David Crosby was a big Heinlein fan as well. In his autobiography, he references Heinlein on more than one occasion, and proclaims that, 'In a society where people can go armed, it makes everybody a little more polite, as Robert Heinlein says in his books.' Frank Zappa was also a member of the Robert Heinlein fan club. Barry Miles notes in his biography of the rock icon that his home contained 'a copy of Saint-Exupery's The Little Prince and other essential sixties reading, including Robert Heinlein's sci-fi classic, Stranger in a Strange Land, from which Zappa borrowed the word "discorporate" for [the song] Absolutely Free.'"
(Weird Scenes Inside the Canyon, David McGowan, pgs. 58-59)
As indicated above, Heinlein's work would have an enormous influence on the 60s counterculture despite the rather contemptuous attitude Heinlein had towards such things. After flirting with progressive politics during the 1930s, Heinlein became a far right reactionary at the onset of the Cold War. Some of his later works, most notably Starship Troopers, romanticized fascist military dictatorships and in general Heinlein's work fanatically glorified militarism. Heinlein was a staunch supporter of the McCarthy hearings, Vietnam, and the nuclear arms race.

On the other hand, his works works were frequently hostile to Christianity and organized religion in general. Wile Heinlein is commonly depicted as an early proponent of "free love," his version went to extremes the counterculture largely avoided: incest and even pedophilia are gloried in many of Heinlein's later works, especially the Lazarus Long books that began with 1973's Time Enough For Love. Prior to the 1970s, however, Heinlein showed some restraint and Stranger in a Strange Land would have a especially profound effect on the counterculture and other, more unsavory, elements.
"Robert E. Heinlein was another sci-fi giant to emerge from the pages of Astounding. His Stranger in a Strange Land (1961), in which a Martian, Michael Valentine Smith, arrives on Earth and inaugurates a free-love cult, is rife with themes, ideas and philosophies that come right out of the pages of Crowley's writing, especially The Book of the Law. The practice of water sharing, that runs throughout the book, is taken from Crowley's Gnostic Mass. Other occult references abound: the psychic Madame Alexandria Vesant seems a combination of Madame Blavatsky and Annie Besant, and the catchphrase 'Thou art God' is like the ancient Hindu Tat twam asi, 'That thou art,' a formula of the unity of Atman and Brahma which Hess employs in Steppenwolf
"Like Tolkien and Lord of the Rings, Heinlein and Stranger in a Strange Land would achieve cult status by the mid-sixties. Also like Tolkien, Heinlein would contribute a word to the language. 'Grok,' Heinlein's term for an immediate, intuitive grasp of a person or situation, soon became a counterculture buzzword; at one point Heinlein was asked to lead a seminar at Big Sur's Esalen Institute, sharing the bill with Alan Watts. Ironically, a book that became a kind of Bible among the leftist love-and-peace generation was written by an author with right-wing political sympathies, and exposed a kind of mystical elitism, with a superhuman leader who had no qualms about 'discorporating' individuals who interfered with his plans.
"Stranger in a Strange Land acquired a darker cachet when it became known that, along with Siddhartha, it was one of the few books, it was one of the few books Charles Manson allowed the members of his Family to read. In 1970, Heinlein even received a fan letter from one of the Family, sent from a jail in Independence, California. The link between the book and Manson was so strong that Heinlein turned down an interview with Playboy because Hugh Hefner wanted to ask questions about its influence on the Family.
"That Heinlein was aware of the links between his own libertarian philosophy and that of Crowley is clear from a letter sent to a group of fans who asked permission to use material in Stranger in a Strange Land at their meetings. Heinlein refused – wisely shy of associating his name with any cult – and closes his letter saying that 'Do what thou wilt' may indeed be the 'whole of the law', perhaps even 'a law of nature', but that it was a more complicated idea than most people supposed. Heinlein's book, however, was the inspiration for at least one cult. In the late sixties, a group of students at Westminster College, Missouri, founded a weather brother fraternity, and later established the Church of All Worlds, what they described as a 'Neo-Pagan Earth Religion'."
(Turn Off Your Mind, Gary Lachman, pgs. 223-224)

The Church of All Worlds still exists to this day, but largely as a paper organization. It has struggled along for years with few members and even less funding. In the 1960s, however, Stranger influenced a variety of different movements and sects, including the Manson Family.

There is no doubt that Heinlein was aware of Crowley's writings by this date and considerably earlier. During the 1940s, when Heinlein was living in the infamous Laurel Canyon, he made the acquaintance of Jack Parsons, the legendary rocket scientist who invented the jet fuel used for years by modern space crafts and aided in the founding of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. It is not Parsons' scientific achievements, however, that he is most widely remembered for nowadays. What is endlessly analyzed is his infamous occult activities that involved a relationship with Crowley and in time the US branch of the Thelemite Ordo Templi Orientis. It was against this back drop that Parsons struck up his little acknowledged friendship with Heinlein.
"As the worlds of science and science fiction continued to coalesce, so Parsons himself was spending more time in the company of professional science fiction writers. He had become a regular guest of the Manana Literary Society, a group of authors who met at the Laurel Canyon home of the writer Robert Heinlein. Lead and intelligent, with a pencil-thin mustache and a penchant for ascots, Heinlein was swiftly winning fame as the preeminent writer in science fiction. When Parsons first met him in 1942, he was thirty-five years old, having begun his career late as a science fiction writer. He had spent some time in the navy before being invalidated out of the service, and he had gone on to a brief career in politics, which culminated in a run for the California State Assembly as a member of Upton Sinclair's left-wing EPIC (End Poverty in California) movement. Beaten by the Republican incumbent, he turned to the pupls for quick money and now, along with Isaac Asimov and L. Sprague de Camp, was rewriting the rules of the traditional science fiction story, crafting realistic characters and beautifully wrought depictions of the future. His stories of lone geniuses as proficient with their fists as with their slide rules proved remarkably popular in the pages of the pulps, and his fame would only increase in the post-war years when he published such best-selling novels as Starship Troopers and Stranger in a Strange Land.
"Heinlein met Parsons at a meeting of the Los Angeles Science Fiction Society. As one of the earliest members of the American Interplanetary Society, the first rocket society in America, he was impressed by the freethinking rocket scientist and invited him to the Manana society, so named 'for all the stories that would be written tomorrow.' Here some of the finest science fiction pulp writers of the time met to drink cheap sherry and talk over new stories.
"Those present included William White, also known by the name Anthony Boucher and a hundred other pseudonyms, whose murder mystery stories were infused with Catholic iconography. Cleve Cartmill, a beat reporter crippled from polio, whose atomic bomb story would so alarm the Manhattan Project, had already met Parsons and visited the OTO on Winona Boulevard. Jack Williamson, who also knew Parsons, could be found in a corner of the room, mulling over stories that mixed parallel time streams with Amazonian dominatrices from the future. Visiting guess from outside Los Angeles would also appear at the society's meetings: L. Ron Hubbard, who could type 2,000 words an hour without revision and who seemed like a character in some of his dizzying tales of psychic powers and strong-jawed supermen; the film director Fritz Lang, whose early German pictures Die Drau im Monde and Metropolis had been two of the earliest science fiction films; and Lang's fellow German ex-patriot Willy Ley, who was now doing his best to popularize the idea of space travel through his factual science articles in the pulps Astounding Science Fiction and Amazing Stories. Into this eclectic group came Parsons, with his talk of rocketry and magick."
(Strange Angel, George Pendle, pgs. 228-230)
The Manana Society likely spurred the first meeting between Parsons and L. Ron Hubbard, himself a former Naval officer and the future founder of the Church of Scientology. Hubbard, who would later claim that he befriended Parsons as part of an operation for the Office of Naval Intelligence, performed a bizarre ritual with Parsons known as the Babalon Working that has been the center of much speculation over the years. Hubbard would also scam Parsons out of a considerable amount of money and run off with the rocket scientist's girlfriend.

It seems clear that Heinlein played a key role in introducing Parsons to Hubbard. After Hubbard moved into Parsons' abode, Heinlein would occasionally drop by to fence with his fellow sword enthusiasts. Heinlein also introduced Parsons to the physicist and engineer Robert Cornog, whom he would later dedicate Stranger in a Strange Land to. Cornog would play a key role in developing the atomic bomb while working on the Manhattan Project and would continue to develop missile system throughout the rest of his life. For a time he would also live with Parsons.

A few other interesting points that should be made concerning Heinlein before returning to our regularly scheduled programming: As noted above, Heinlein was living in the notorious Laurel Canyon by the early 1940s. This was roughly at the same time the bizarre facility known as Lookout Mountain Laboratory became operational there (as noted above, Heinlein reportedly lived on Lookout Mountain Avenue during this time frame, indicating he was probably very close to he facility). "Incidentally," this was also when Heinlein decided to launch what would become a highly prolific writing career. A bit about Lookout Mountain:
"What would become known as Lookout Mountain Laboratory was originally envisioned as a fortified air defense center. Built in 1941 and nestled in two-and-a-half secluded acres off what is now Wonderland Park Avenue, the installation was hidden from view and surrounded by an electrified fence. By 1947, the facility featured a fully operational movie studio. In fact, it is claimed that it was the world's only completely self-contained movie studio. With 100,000 square feet of floor space, the covert studio included sound stages, screening rooms, film processing labs, editing facilities, an animation department, and seventeen climate-controlled film vaults. It also had a helicopter pad and a bomb shelter.
"Over its lifetime, the studio produced some 19,000 classified motion pictures – more than all the Hollywood studios combined (which I guess makes little canyon the real 'motion picture capital of the world'). Officially, the facility was run by the US Air Force and did nothing more nefarious than process AEC footage of atomic and nuclear bomb tests. The studio, however, was clearly equipped to do far more than just process film. There are indications that Lookout Mountain Laboratory had an advanced research and development department that was on the cutting edge of new film technologies. Such technological advances as 3-D effects were apparently first developed at the Laurel Canyon site. And Hollywood luminaries like John Ford, Jimmy Stewart, Howard Hawks, Ronald Reagan, Bing Crosby, Walt Disney, Hedda Hopper and Marilyn Monroe were given clearance to work at the facility on undisclosed project. There is no indication that any of them ever spoke of their work at the clandestine studio."
(Weird Scenes Inside the Canyon, David McGowan, pgs. 55-56)

During World War II Heinlein, along with Issac Asimov and L. Sprague de Camp, was dispatched to work at the research laboratory at the Philadelphia Naval Yard. While there were rumors that these prominent science fiction writers were part of a think tank pondering super weapons, the writers have long insisted that their work consisted of little more than investigating hydraulic valves and such like. Its interesting to note, however, that Heinlein, Asimov and de Camp seem to have been stationed at the Philadelphia Naval Yard at roughly the same time the Philadelphia Experiment was taking place. The Philadelphia Experiment is almost surely a hoax, however.

the Philadelphia Naval Yard
Heinlein met his future wife,Virginia Gerstenfeld, during this time. Many of Heinlein's female characters would be based upon her and she reportedly had an enormous influence on his later conservative political leanings.

Towards the end of his life Heinlein would become involved with an organization known as Citizens Advisory Council on National Space Policy. This committee, which met at science fiction writer Larry Niven's house, was one of several lobby groups for the Strategic Defense Initiative, more commonly referred to as "Star Wars." Reportedly Heinlein contributed to Ronald Reagan's 1983 "Star Wars" speech through this organization.

The council also included legendary astronaut and Freemason Buzz Aldrin and General Daniel O. Graham, who served as deputy director of the CIA and director of the Defense Intelligence Agency. After departing the DIA in 1976 Graham became involved with various far right organization with deep ties to the US intelligence community such as the World Anti-Communist League and the American Security Council. Much more information on Graham and these organizations can be found here and here.

Heinlein dedicated one of his Lazarus Long books, The Cat Who Walks Through Walls, to this group. But moving along.

Heinlein and his rather curious associations has of course been rather sparingly addressed by many conspiracy theorists. This is hardly surprising considering how much The Moon is a Harsh Mistress is revered in libertarian and paramilitary circles in the United States. While the nefarious influence Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land has gotten far more attention, its likely Moon has had an even more devastating influence. While the former work may have partially inspired the Manson Family, Moon seems to have been at the heart of Stark's continent spanning network.

Moon... is a work revered by the counterculture and libertarian circles despite the author's unabashed worship of military dictatorships (to say nothing of his likely ties to the US intelligence community). I suppose this is rather fitting considering the influence Stranger had on the Family, a cult that more closely resembled a paramilitary Christian Identity sect than the common perception of hippies (as I've noted before here) but is none the less held up as the "dark side" of the 1960s counterculture. And then there is Stark, a self proclaimed acidified revolutionary who none the less would forge curious ties with at least one fascist cult in Italy. But more on that later.

Let us now finally return to Stark in earnest. In the prior installment I noted Stark's initial meeting with the Brotherhood of Eternal Love in 1969 but I did not mention his earlier ventures into the emerging 1960s counterculture. At this point these encounters should be noted before moving forward. Let us start with his time in France:
"... On the streets during the Paris riots in May 1969 he bumped into a fellow American expatriate. The casual meeting was to have great importance. The two got talking about drugs and the other American, a student at Cambridge, England, mentioned that a drug expert and writer had settled in the university town. Stark tucked the name away for future reference..."
(The Brotherhood of Eternal Love, Stewart Tendler & David May, pg. 140)
We'll get to this so-called "drug expert" in a little bit, so do keep him in mind. For the time being it should be noted that the above-mentioned Paris riots took place in 1968, and not 1969. This event, commonly referred to as "May of '68" or simply "May 68", was one of the most turbulent and striking events of the emerging 60s counterculture. Of it, the legendary rock critic Greil Marcus remarked:
"... when apparently trivial disruptions on a university campus in the Paris suburbs had begun a chain reaction of refusal – when first students, then factory workers, then clerks, professors, nurses, doctors, athletes, bus drivers, and artist refused to work, took to the streets, threw up barricades and fought off the police, or turned back upon their workplaces, occupied them, fought off their unions, and transformed their workplaces into laboratories of debating and critique, when the walls of Paris bled with unusual slogans – when ten million people brought a signal version of modern society to a standstill. 'In the confusion and tumult of the May revolt,' Bernard E Brown wrote in Protest in Paris, his unique academic account of May 68, 'the slogans and shouts of the students were considered expressions of mass spontaneity and individual ingenuity. Only afterwards was it evident that the slogans were fragments of a consistent and seductive ideology that had virtually all appeared in situationist tracts and publications... Mainly through their agency there welled up in the May revolt an immense force of protest against the modern world and all its works, blending passion, mystery, and the primeval.' 'The explosion,' said President Charles de Gaulle in the June speech with which he recapture power, 'was provoked by a few groups in revolt against modern society, against consumer society, against technological society, whether communist in the East or capitalist in the West – groups, moreover, which do not know what they would put in its place, but which delight in negation.' 'The Beginning of an Epoch,' proclaimed the lead article in the twelfth and last number of the journal Internationale situationniste in 1969. 'The death rattle of the historical irrelevants,' said Zbigniew Brzezinski."
(Lipstick Traces, Greil Marcus, pgs. 31-32)
some of the slogans of May 68
Earlier Marcus noted the ideological underpinnings of May 68:
"... a critique of modern society once set out by a small group of Paris-based intellectuals. First organized in 1952 as the Lettrist International, and refounded in 1957 at a conference of European avant-garde artists as the Situationist International, the group gained its greatest notoriety during the French revolt of May 1968, when the premises of its critique were distilled into crudely poetic slogans and spray-painted across the walls of Paris, after which the critique was given up to history and the group disappeared. The group looked back to the surrealist of the 1920s, the dadaists who made their names during and just after the First World War, the young Karl Marx, Saint-Just, various medieval heretics, and the Knights of the Round Table."
(Lipstick Traces, Greil Marcus, pg. 18)
a publication of the Situationist International
A full scale discussion of the Situationists is vastly beyond the scope of this series, but suffice to say they are one of the least addressed and yet most effective of the various fringe counterculture sects that developed during the 1960s. And here was Stark during May 1968 making the scene in Paris during the SI's greatest triumph. A year later Stark would once again find himself within the ranks of Situationists, this time in London.

SI member Charles Radcliffe became involved with an underground magazine called Friends, later renamed Frendz, that ran from 1969 till 1972. Besides Radcliffe, several others involved with the magazine had also been influenced by the Situationists and may even have been directly involved with them. In some accounts this politically radical magazine received a curious source of funding: Ronald Stark.
"Stark had first met the group producing Frendz magazine in 1969, weeks before he introduced himself to the Brotherhood of Eternal Love in California. Developments around the magazine from 1969 to 71 show, Abrams believes, that something fishy was going on:
"'Dick Pontain take Stark off to Frendz magazine. It appears that Stark takes over the funding – there's an overpaid editor, a staff of 17, a fleet of hire cars and they never sold more than 5,000 copies an issue. Now you have this magazine, acting as spokesman for the Angry Brigade, and involved with Jim McCann, who is close to the IRA. Enter, at the beginning of 1971, Howard Marks, who's doing some dope business with Alan Marcuson and Charles Radcliffe of Frendz magazine.'"
(Acid: A New Secret History of LSD, David Black, pg. 98)

What this means is essentially that this magazine, begun kids influenced by the Situationists, would develop ties with terror organizations (the IRA and the Angry Brigade) after Stark arrives on the scene and seemingly takes over the magazine's funding. And the one member directly tied to the Situationists, Charles Radcliffe, also becomes involved in trafficking hashish. His partner in this endeavor was the above-mentioned Howard Marks, a figure with a deep background in his own right:
 "According to Marks, it was nearly two years later, at the end of 1972, when Hamilton McMillan – an MI6 officer and an old chum from Balliol College, Oxford – recruited him as an agent to help in 'unspecified operations.' McMillan apparently thought that as a 'Balliol man, through and through,' Marks would be discreet and useful to Queen and Country."
(Acid: A New Secret History of LSD, David Black, pg. 98)
So, an associate of the magazine, and one involved in a drug smuggling ring with Radcliffe, was eventually recruited as a British intelligence asset. And guess what ties another member of Marks' network happened to have:
"At that time Marks was engaged in a number of smuggling operations. One was a deal with Ernie Coombes of the Brotherhood of Eternal Love. They had an arrangement with various Middle and Near East diplomats and playboys to fly large loads of Afghani hash to America through Europe. Marks, Coombes, and another old Oxford University friend, Graham Plinston, developed a clever scam by setting up a front company to transport PA systems for British rock bands touring the United States. Afghan hash stuffed into speaker cabinets going into the US and replaced with marijuana for the return trip by Brotherhood contacts in the New York Mafia."
(Acid: A New Secret History of LSD, David Black, pg. 98)
So it would appear Starks' Brotherhood connections went into business with Howard Marks, a some time MI6 asset, after their partnership with Stark had been cemented. This was not the only questionable company the Brotherhood attracted after establishing ties with Stark.
"In speculating on Ron Stark's possible role as an 'anti counter-culture agent', Stewart Tendler and David May, authors of The Brotherhood of Eternal Love, note that Stark began working with the Brotherhood 'at just the time when they were involved with the Weathermen', but fail to come up with any direct link that the Weather Underground might have had with either Stark or the Brotherhood at that time (late summer 1969). However, as we have seen, Stark had already been flirting with 'armed struggle' politics in London in 1969. Even before he met the Brotherhood, when he was hanging out with the Frendz magazine collective whose ranks included associates of the Black Mask/Motherfuckers group in New York.
"It was in fact a year or so after Stark's arrival at Idylwild that the Brotherhood 'connected' with the Weather Underground for the purpose of springing Leary from prison in smuggling him and his wife Rosemary to Algeria as guests of the Black Panthers. In spring 1970 an Orange County judge had passed a ludicrous sentence of up to 22 years' imprisonment on Larry for petty marijuana offenses. As Leary's friends organized a defense campaign, the Brotherhood of Eternal Love paid the Weather Underground $25,000 to free him, a task made much easier by his transfer from Fulsom Prison to the minimum security establishment at San Luis Obispo...
"Given that Hoover's FBI had just denounced the Panthers and the Weather Underground as the most dangerous groups in America, the Leary escape – which was reportedly masterminded by his lawyer, Michael Kennedy – was a brilliant coup, which conjured Hoover's hyperbole into the spectre of a revolutionary coalition that in reality barely existed. However, when Leary appeared to buy the Weatherpeople's skyed-out politics and issued a statement from hiding arguing that 'To shoot a genocidal robot policeman in defense of life is sacred act,' he alienated many of his old friends, many of whom were pacifist..."
(Acid: A New Secret History of LSD, David Black, pgs. 116-117)
a wanted poster for various members of the Weather Underground
Thus, the Brotherhood had transformed from a proto-human potential sect into an idealist drug cartel and finally, after Stark came on board, began involved in the "armed struggle." Leary's escape and subsequent actions of course forever damaged his credibility. And much the same could be said for what the armed struggle did for the New Left in the 1960s. And here was Ronald Stark in the background just before the Frendz collective and the Brotherhood became involved in these elements. As I'm sure many of you are aware, there is a host of speculation concerning the Weather Underground's ties to the US intelligence community. Such a topic is far beyond the scope of this series, but when one considers the presence of men like Stark and Howard Marks in the midst of these groups, such a notion must be given consideration. But moving along.

By the early 1970s the heat was on the Brotherhood of Eternal Love.
"By this time a federal task force composed of thirteen agencies – including the FBI, CIA, BNDD, IRS, Customs, and the State Department – were gearing up for a major crackdown on the Brotherhood. Operation BEL, as the Brotherhood sting was called, scored its first major victory in August 1972, when narcotics agents arrested forty people in three different states. The predawn raids were ordered on the basis of twenty-nine secret indictments handed down by an Orange County grand jury. They marked the accumulation of a year-long investigation that netted a million and a half LSD tablets, two and a half tons of hashish, thirty gallons of hash oil, and $20,000 in cash. Cecil Hicks, the district attorney of Orange County, fingered Leary as 'the Godfather' of the largest drug smuggling network in the world and vowed to press for his extradition from Switzerland. 'Leary is responsible for destroying more lives than any other human being,' Hicks declared."
(Acid Dreams, Martin A. Lee & Bruce Shlain, pg. 271)
a wanted poster for the Brotherhood
In all, several hundred members of the Brotherhood were arrested. At least twenty members chose the fugitive route so as to avoid serving time. In virtually all cases the government relentlessly pursued criminal charges against these individuals, even years after the fact. As recently as 2010, a former member of the Brotherhood was arrested on nearly 40 year old charges. The most famous of these fugitives was of course Nick Sand, who jumped bail in 1976 and became a fugitive for nearly two decades. But he too eventually served time for the charges relating to his time with the Brotherhood.

As one might imagine, there was but one specific individual whom the government did not pursue their case against.
"... When the DEA were putting together a case against Stark in 1972, they had great difficulty in pinning down his personal details and were never able to get his FBI file from New York. Their reports in California and the details passed on to Europe only showed what Stark was not, not what he actually was.
"The silence was finally ended late in 1982. Stark was arrested in Holland on a charge involving 16 kilos of hashish. In the summer of 1983, he was released from custody and thrown out of Holland where he had claimed to be a Lebanese bound for New York. He was arrested on arrival in the United States on a passport violation and DEA agents began to reconstruct the original San Francisco LSD case against him. They found it impossible to do so after such a long time and Stark was released."
(The Brotherhood of  Eternal Love, Stewart Tendler & David May, pgs. 230-231)
Authorities seemingly had no problem reconstructing cases against lesser members of the Brotherhood, even decades after the fact. But when confronted with Ron Stark, the man who effectively ran the organization by the early 1970s and who would remain a player in international drug trafficking for years to come, they couldn't put together a case. And be assured, Stark's criminal activities by this point in time were legion, having left a paper trail in several countries. In the next installment we shall consider some of these things beginning with the LSD ring that replaced the Brotherhood and its links to Stark. Stay tuned.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Stranger In a Strange Land: The Curious Times of Ronald Stark Part I

Easily one of the most enigmatic figures in the murky history of LSD is a man commonly known as Ronald Hadley Stark. Allegedly born as Ronald Shitsky in New York during September 1938, Stark became the key figure in the illicit LSD trade by 1969 and would remain a force throughout the 1970s. While he was famously involved with the notorious "hippie mafia" known as the Brotherhood of Eternal Love as well as the lesser known but even more prolific British outfit dubbed the "Microdot Gang", Stark's involvement in the manufacturing of LSD began prior to his association with the Brotherhood in '69.

the ever elusive Stark
It is these activities as well as his general involvement in international drug trafficking and revolutionary leftist politics that have typically fascinated alternative researchers and conspiracy theorists though this is but a part of Stark's tangled story. The only online source this researcher has encountered that has offered a thorough account of Stark's life is one offered by Brainsturbator (formerly Skilluminati), to which this series will be greatly indebted. This is a fine account of Stark's involvement in the LSD trade with fringe counterculture groups. My interest, however, in approaching Stark is to address an aspect of his career rarely examined at length: his ties to what is commonly referred to as "Operation Gladio." But to get to that point I most first examine the more known aspects of the man's "career." So let's get on with the show.

Some background on Mr. Stark's early days:
"The official record leaves plenty of room for embroidery and subterfuge. Stark was born in New York in September 1938, as Ronald Shitsky. In adult life he is recorded as being five feet eight inches tall, weighing 210 lb, with brown hair, blue eyes, balding with a scar on his abdomen. In 1962 he was convicted of filing a false application for a government job and became FBI Number 812020E. He failed to abide by the terms of his probation was sent to a federal detention centre, and then to Lewisburg Prison, Pennsylvania. Shitsky was changing identity. He was convicted as Ronald Hadley Clark. When jailed, he was now calling himself. Ronald H. Stark. While in custody he spent a period of time in Bellevue mental hospital. Under the heading of employment, his record merely says 'research laboratory.' In 1967, the record notes he was worth $3000, but the next year in excess of $1 million."
(The Brotherhood of Eternal Love, Stewart Tendler & David May, pg. 137)

Stark's alleged association with Bellevue Hospital Center is most curious. In Acid: A New Secret History of LSD David Black records that Stark describes himself as having studied there rather than having been institutionalized. The legitimacy of either one of these associations, much like everything having to do with Stark's life, is difficult to discern, but such ties open up some interesting possibilities.

Bellevue Hospital was the long time base of operation for the well known child neuropsychiatrist Dr. Lauretta Bender. At Bellevue Hospital and nearby facilities Bender and associations conducted a host of bizarre experiments beginning by at least the 1940s. Some of them involved children. Bender would later go on to develop close links with several of the doctors involved in the CIA/Pentagon behavior modification experiments conducted under auspices of MK-Ultra, Artichoke and other such projects.
"Not a great deal is known about experimental activities conducted in New York on children because the CIA, in 1973, destroyed all its files related to such experiments under the rationale that 'the public would be too outraged over such activities and would not appreciate the Agency's objectives behind such work,' but what is known is shocking. Experiments appear to have initially started in New York City, at Bellevue Hospital from early 1940 to 1956. There, Dr. Lauretta Bender, a highly respected child neuropsychiatrist, experimented extensively with electroshock therapy on children who had been diagnosed, some incorrectly, with 'autistic schizophrenia.'
"In all, it has been reported in several medical journals, as well as in at least two medical texts written by Dr. Bender, that she administered electroconvulsive therapy to about 100 children ranging in age from 3 years old to 13 years, with additional reports indicating the total may be twice that number. One source reports that, inclusive of Dr. Bender's work, electroconvulsive treatment was used on more than 500 children at Bellevue Hospital from 1942 to 1956, and then at Creedmoor State Hospital Children's Service from 1956 to 1969...
"Interesting to note, is that Dr. Bender's work at Bellevue Hospital involving children followed earlier 'depatterning' electroconvulsive experiments conducted at the hospital, then termed 'annihilation' therapy. The so-called therapy began in the mid-1940s and followed earlier efforts using insulin and Metrazol shock therapy practiced on well over 500 adult patients and an undetermined number of children at several New York hospitals. In January 1937, Dr. Bender as part of a large contingent of Bellevue hospital physicians, including Drs. Joseph Wortis and Karl Bowman, accompanied by Dr. Harold E. Himwich, from Albany Medical College, attended a joint meeting of the New York Neurological Society and the psychiatric branch of the New York Academy of Medicine. The gathering featured a virtual who's-who of practitioners of insulin and Metrazol shock therapy, supposed cures for mental illness that, following sound discrediting of both techniques triggered a stampede towards electroshock therapy as a credible technique.
"Also attending this joint meeting as a presenter was Dr. D. Ewen Cameron, who, according to historian Dr. David Healy, 'in March 1936, introduced insulin coma at Worcester State Hospital in Massachusetts.' Cameron, who would eventually head up infamous MK/ULTRA Subproject 68 in Montréal, also conducted extensive experiments at Worcester Hospital with a seizure-inducing drug called Metrazol, as did physicians at Bellevue Hospital and the U.S. Army's Edgewood Arsenal, where Dr. Howard E. Himwich served as research director. It is unknown how many, if any, children were subjects in these experiments, but funding for Cameron's Worcester activities was provided by the Child Neurology Research, which was part of the Friedsam Foundation."
(A Secret Order, H.P. Albarelli, pgs. 36-37)
Dr. Bender
This researcher has found no reference to Stark being linked to Bellevue until 1962, after these barbaric experiments on children had ceased at that facility (at least officially). There has been some speculation that Stark received his first dose of LSD at Bellevue during this period, but there is no solid evidence for this. As noted above, Stark was born in New York in 1938, and thus would have been at an ideal age by the time the experiments at Bellevue were in full swing, but again, there is no evidence of an association before 1962. Still, this is one of the most compelling aspects of Mr. Stark's official background that has never really received the attention that it deserves. But moving along.

Stark was still living in New York City during the mid-1960s and already indulging in a curious lifestyle.
"Friends in New York in the mid-1960s remembered him as living in a tenement in the centre of the Little Italy area of the city. They thought he was a biochemist or something at Cornell University. 'He was short and fat. The kind of guy who could pass as ethnic anything and aged between 25 and 45. He was an interesting guy', said one acquaintance. Stark also seemed a little eccentric. He had a six-room apartment, but lived in only two of them, throwing his garbage into the other four rooms. When the place filled up, he left. The friends understood he got his money from a breakthrough in his research, and they saw documents would seemed to back up the story. One of the friends tried to get hold of Stark at his Cornell laboratory, used by Noble Prize winner, but no one had heard of him.
"Stark's explanation of his wealth to friends in the drug world revolved around his connections with the Whitney family, one of America's richest clans. Calling himself, George Ronald Hadley Whitney Stark, he claimed to have been born into an Austrian branch of the family. He was given money from the family's trust funds which he put to good use and increased. Stark said he was at Harvard at the time of President Kennedy's election and, on graduating, joined the administration, like many other young Harvard men recruited by the Kennedys. He served under McNamara in the Defense Department on work which was secret but the (unspecified) tasks eventually so disgusted him that he resigned. His break with the American establishment was completed in the mid-1960s, when he first took LSD.
"The conversion to LSD was omitted when Stark spoke to his lawyers. The story here was that his father had been a biochemist in Europe during the 1930s who had moved his funds from Nazi Germany to Switzerland. Stark inherited the funds because his mother wanted nothing to do with anything connected with the Nazis and in 1968 Stark sold patents, implying that they might have been his father's, to a Californian corporation for $900,000, plus an annual royalty payment guaranteed at never less than $24,000. A graduate of Harvard, the Rockefeller University, and in New York teaching hospital, Stark took his PhD in biochemistry and his MD and, with his new fortune, moved into the international business community.
"In Accra, capital of Ghana, in 1967 Stark again claimed connections with the Whitneys. He acquired a genuine 40 per-cent holding in the Ghanaian state pharmaceutical house, in the hope of eventually buying out the government. While there, he enlisted the aid of an economic specialist at the US embassy to press his bid. Entertained at the diplomat's home, he boasted of his collection of large, fast cars and houses in Rome, Paris, and other capital cities. Further along the coast in Nigeria, he claimed to be an important member of a company called West Africa Services and talked of plans to open a pharmaceutical company. His business card announced him as part of Interbiochem Ghana – which the card said it had replaced the state pharmaceutical house.
"In fact, he was never a graduate of Harvard – or of anywhere else, for that matter. The firm to which he is supposed to sold his patents says merely that they had some dealings with him in the mid-1960s, and did not wish to comment further..."
(The Brotherhood of Eternal Love, Stewart Tendler & David May, pgs. 137-139)
William Collins Whitney, patriarch of the prominent American dynasty to which Stark claimed a relation
At this point let us pause and briefly consider one of Stark's accounts of how he acquired his wealth: from patents his father smuggled into Switzerland from Nazi Germany during the 1930s, or possibly later. This account is compelling. Every year more and more information comes out revealing the disturbing extent to which Nazis and their capital departed Germany as the war went sour. The highly controversial "Red House Report" raises some very unsettling possibilities as to what the motivations were behind these departures. Of it rogue historian Peter Levenda notes:
"The Red House Report was only one indication that the Nazis were planning for their survival almost a year before the surrender in May of 1945. They had ample time to move gold and valuables out by truck and submarine to points all around the world, and the evidence shows that they did. They had a network of agents in the Americas, Europe, Asia, and the Middle East who would facilitate these transfers, as well as the transfer of personnel, and these networks were all in place before the end of 1944...
"... The flight of Nazis to South America, especially to Argentina, has become something of a clich̩ and the subject of novels, films, documentaries, and academic research and reportage. However, one aspect of the Nazi post-war strategy that often has been overlooked by popularizers and Hollywood screenwriters is the flight of capital. This is an essential aspect of the Nazi exit strategy Рas evidenced by the Red House Report Рand the ready availability of cash meant that the Nazi underground could continue to function without worrying about how they would finance their operations. The amount of gold and other treasure that was taken out of Europe has yet to be adequately calculated, but it was enough to ensure Рwith careful planning and investments, legal and illegal Рan operating fund that was the equal of the budgets of small countries.
"Due to the complexity of international trade and finance and the obscurity of offshore accounts, encoded wire transfers, and foreign currency transactions – as well as the involvement in the trafficking of Nazi gold by other members of the Axis powers and sympathizers, including Argentina, Chile, Spain, Portugal, Switzerland and most notably Japan – this aspect of the ODESSA story resists all attempts to accurate accounting..."
(The Hitler Legacy, Peter Levenda, pgs. 120-122)
the controversial "Red House Report"
According to Levenda, Switzerland was especially important to the financial aspect of the post-war Nazi International.
"In Switzerland, however, plans for salvaging Germany's wealth had been in motion long before the invasion and the subsequent assassination attempt on Hitler. This was at the offices of the Bank of International Settlements (BIS), a financial institution that was the brainchild of Hjalmar Schacht, ostensibly as a device for handling Germany's World War One reparations as required by the Treaty of Versailles.
"BIS was created by Bank of England chairman Montagu Norman in collaboration with Schacht; the first, tumultuous meetings that finally gave the BIS its formal blessing involved American financier Charles G. Dawes and American industrialist Owen D. Young. Dawes was chairman of the board of City National Bank and Trust of Chicago, and had been a director of the US Bureau of the Budget, involved with German reparations arrangements after World War One. Young was the founder of the RCA Corporation and chairman of General Electric. The idea was to create a kind of clearinghouse for the funds. The Germany would pay (to the tune of over 130 million gold marks per year, as per the Versailles Treaty, a sum that increased to more than 500 million marks per year as the discussions evolved) as reparations to those countries that had lost blood and treasure in the war. BIS would be 'the central banker's central bank,' a kind of super-bank, whose members included representatives from Germany, France, Belgium, Italy, Japan, and the United Kingdom. It would be immune from any country's laws and politics, the luggage of its members not subject to search by the police forces of any nation. The members of BIS were and are economic and financial diplomats, whose loyalty is not to the countries that sired them, but to the Bank itself. Until 1977, in fact, the location of its headquarters in the Swiss town of Basel, hidden behind a chocolate shop, was a secret known only to a few. Outsiders were – and are – not permitted to observe meetings, or even to view the rooms were meetings were held. Its deliberations are secret, save for the annual reports, which presumably have been sanitized of any incriminating evidence.
"Schacht, as president of the Reichsbank at the time of the founding of BIS (January 20, 1930), was deeply involved in its inspiration and creation. He saw BIS as a tool that could be used to move money around discretely, paying off Germany's war debts in the kind of sleight-of-hand for which Schacht was understandably famous...
"For all intents and purposes, BIS was the Nazi bank during the war years – essentially the foreign branch of the Reichsbank, where deals could be cut in safety and secrecy with the heads of other central banks, including the consortium of American banks that were represented by Thomas H. McKittrick.
"In 1944, meetings were being held at the highest level at the BIS headquarters in Basel to determine how to best allow the Nazi machine to survival what was seen as its inevitable defeat on the battlefield. It was a surreal composition, and if the documentation did not support it, we would have a difficult time believing it. The bankers present at these meetings included representatives from countries that were currently at war with each other, discussing how to hide and move Nazi gold to ensure the continuity of the German economy in the post-war period. Indeed, according to US Treasury Secretary Morgenthau – a devoted anti-Nazi – at the 1944 Bretton Woods meeting that created the International Monetary Fund, there was a total of fourteen BIS directors, of which twelve were Nazis or members of regimes controlled by the Nazis (such as the Czechs who had to surrender all their gold to the Reich's accounts at BIS). Morgenthau's efforts to shut down the BIS were doomed to failure when the Swiss bankers threaten to walk out of the conference."
(The Hitler Legacy, Peter Levenda, pgs. 129-131)
the modern BIS
Levenda notes that besides personnel and gold, technical know-how and scientific research was also smuggled out of Nazi Germany during the war years. Is it possible the patents Stark claimed his father had acquired during the 1930s in Nazi Germany were such contraband? As outlandish as this possibility may sound, Stark would appear to move rather comfortably amongst neo-fascist sects in Italy and beyond by the 1970s despite years of rubbing shoulders with and enabling radical leftists. But more on that latter. Suffice to say, however, the patents do seem to be real and the company that acquired them was not anxious to offer any real details on them. Unfortunately, little information is available concerning this mysterious company.

But on with Stark's early years:
"... Department of Defense records in Washington do not go back further than 1973. There is a Ronald Harry Stark living a perfectly ordinary life in the Midwest. The Stark has genuine connections to various forms of research; somewhere, although he cannot remember anyone like his 'namesake,' the fictitious Stark discovered him and his useful identity. The two men are the same age, the same build and the real Mr. Stark says he has never been out of the United States. 'Stark's' mother is still alive and living in New York, but neither she nor his lawyer would comment about the background of her son.
"In all the autobiographies Stark issued, one thing was missing which could have explained more about his wealth: Stark was a very successful LSD entrepreneur. At some point he worked for a corporation which sold erotamine tartrate in the United States – a company for which Druce once acted as agent and the one Stark is supposed to have sold his patents to – and a comparison of street prices for LSD and the wholesale price of ergotamine would have made interesting reading for a man out to make a fortune. Or, while at Bellevue, did Stark received his first LSD as part of a course of treatment? The story about the squalor of his New York apartment is interesting when compared with Sand's early career in similar circumstances. Perhaps Stark tried to make his own LSD and the squalor was either a cover or the result.
"Exactly when he moved into large-scale production abroad, or why, is not known; but several sources independent of each other report a production run in Rome at the time when he suddenly became wealthy. By the late 1960s, Stark had again moved, to France, embellishing his operations with legitimate chemical companies as a front. He was established in the thirteenth arrondissement of Paris with two other Americans, working at night after the regular staff had gone."
(The Brotherhood of Eternal Love, Stewart Tendler & David May, pgs. 139-140)

Despite seemingly being one of the world's first "LSD entrepreneurs" Stark's mythos did not begin in earnest until 1969 when he hooked up with the legendary Brotherhood of Eternal Love. An in depth examination of the Brotherhood is far beyond the scope of this series, but in brief: Founded in 1966 by "Farmer" John Griggs and members of an Anaheim "car club" (and not a motorcycle gang, as is commonly claimed), the Brotherhood would become the largest LSD smuggling network in the world by the late 1960s.

"Farmer" John (right) with Timothy Leary (center)
 The origins of the Brotherhood began with an acid trip Griggs took that inspired him to travel across the country, to Millbrook, New York, and consult with Timothy Leary there. At the time Leary was holed up at an estate in the area owned by William Mellon Hitchcock, a relation of the wealthy and intelligence-connected Mellon dynasty. Grigg's conversations with Leary inspired Griggs to found the Brotherhood upon his return to California.

Hitchcock to the right
After the arrest of the legendary Augustus Owsley "Bear" Stanley III, the grandson of a US Senator from Kentucky, the Brotherhood moved to fill the void with the assistance of Hitchcock. Hitchcock provided the Brotherhood with the capital as well as two chemists, Tim Scully (a former assistant to Owsley) and Nick Sand, to begin a new LSD production ring. I've written much more about Hitchcock's dealings with the Brotherhood as well as the mysterious Mellon clan before here.

By 1969 Hitchcock began to distance himself from the Brotherhood once law enforcement began to take notice of his more curious business ventures. It was at this point that Stark entered the picture.
"It was at this point that a mysterious figure named Ronald Hadley Stark appeared on the scene. The first time anyone heard of Stark was when one of his emissaries turned up in New York to see Hitchcock. The man claimed to represent a large French LSD operation. He was seeking to unload his product through covert channels. Hitchcock, who was then trying to distance himself from the drug trade, directed his visitor to the Brotherhood ranch. A few weeks later, Stark and his assistant travel to Idylwild.
"The Brothers were hesitant initially, but after some verbal sparring Stark proved his sincerity by showing them a kilo of pure LSD. This is a rather impressive credential, to say the least. None of the Brothers had ever seen that much acid in one place before. Stark informed them that he had discovered a new quick process of making high-quality LSD. He laid out his plan to turn on the world – not just the West, but the Soviet Union and the communist countries as well. Stark had business contacts with the Japanese Mafia, and they could smuggle drugs into the Chinese mainland. He also knew a high-placed Tibetan close to the Dalai Lama. Why not offer him enough LSD to does all the Chinese troops occupying Tibet? The CIA was training Tibetan exiles for guerrilla action in their former homeland, and the hallucinogen could come in handy. The Brothers dug his rap. 'We were definitely very gullible in believing the stuff he told us,' Scully said."
(Acid Dreams, Martin A. Lee & Bruce Shalin, pgs. 248-249)
And it is here that I shall wrap things up for now. In the next installment I shall consider Stark's alleged revolutionary inspiration, the fate of the Brothers and the ties Stark had with the Microdot Gang. Stay tuned.