Monday, May 29, 2006

What a long, strange trip it's been

A group calling themselves the Merrymakers Caravan stopped in Ashvegas on Monday, parking their big buses next to the Vance Monument and inviting people aboard.

The group's members, who were also promoting something called the Twelve Tribes, seemed to be espousing a certain religous belief system and lifestyle. There was a tent sent up, with a big banner stating "Open Forum," and people were standing around debating Scripture.

But the group also seems to owe something to the famous psychedelic followers of Ken Kesey, who penned "One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest," freely experimented with LSD through "acid tests" and inspired the hippie aesthetic of 1960s San Francisco. The Merry Pranksters took their brightly colored bus across the country, a bus similar to the one that stopped in Ashvegas this weekend. Kesey and his group met up with everyone from Hunter S. Thompson to Jack Kerouac to Timothy Leary.

Tom Wolfe immortalized the Merry Pranksters in "The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test." Here's what one web site says about that period:

"Tom Wolfe did not catch up with Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters until their long, strange journey was almost at an end. He met the elusive leader of the Merry Pranksters at the San Mateo county jail where Kesey ended up following his faked suicide and subsequent exile to Mexico. The psychedelic movement was just about to explode onto the world stage, and it was Kesey and his Pranksters who originated nearly every aspect of the new 'hippie' aesthetic bizarre dress, communal lifestyle, psychedelic drugs, light shows, and self-expressive rock and roll music. Tom Wolfe's breakneck, frenetic style captured the wild and turbulent years when the Merry Pranksters rambled across the country and back, hiding out in Mexico, and staging some of the most outrageous public events ever conceived."


Edgy Mama said...

Here's their website:

It seems, like Wolfe, that you, Ashvegas, caugth up with the Merry Makers when their long, strange journey was almost at an end. Asheville seems to be thier last stop!

Don said...

The leader of this group (Gene Spriggs) actually lives in Asheville, and they even have their own community here. The leader is one of those guys that claimed to have a "vision" that helped to augment their so-called biblical teachings.

Like many of "these kinds of groups" (I won't use the word cult) they put on a family friendly face but are far from it in real life. I was raised in a cult and their answers to the questions (FAQs) on their website are eerily similar to the stock answers we would give (i.e. logical fallacies). They are similar answers that are given on the website for the cult I was a member of too.

The hippie busses are actually a gimmick to appeal to disillusioned people from that era. They prey on lost hippies and people that have lost their way and encourage them to give up everything and be part of their eutopian society. Similar to Amway, LCI, Jehovah's Witnesses, etc they prey on desperate people and encourage them to turn over their lives to the Organization - to digest and sell their product.

Coincidentally, there is a 10% tithe of any profits that come in which go to the leader.

Of course I was never a part of their group, so these comments are merely based on my brief conversations with a couple of them in Pack Square, the propaganda pamphlets they were handing out for free, and my experience in a similar cult ... I mean ... group.

There are some interesting testimonies of people who tried to leave the group and had their own family members held hostage because of it at the RickRoss cult site:

Picture of the leader in Asheville:
Rick Ross Cult Alert Website

Here is the Wikipedia Entry

Sorry if I sounded too negative in this post ... it just angers me when I see entire families run through the blender by groups under the guise of being pro-family.


Michael Benjamin said...

Concerning the comments above, I have known the Twelve Tribes AKA the community for over a decade. While the term cult almost always blurs any objective critique of a group, I do not doubt that you personally might have had a negative experience with someone. there are bad people out there and certianly misled groups. But this can be said of almost any person or institution in the entire world. Someone once said "a cult is any group you don't like". So, I would encourage anyone who was truly curious about the Twelve Tribes, to actually go and visit them personally and not take some huckster, like Rick Ross, who to my knowledge is a convicted jewel thief and kidnapper, at face value.

if you don't like religious freedom then move to France or Africa. But if you choose to stay in America, then give some room to an organization like the Twelve Tribes who may believe different than you, but who are some of the nicest and most honest people I have ever met. Don't believe me, just go and visit them. They don't live off on some mountain somewhere, but always downtown in cities and neighborhoods.