One Sunday in June, a couple came from San Francisco with
their friends to get married at Wheeler's Ranch. It was a
beautiful, sunny day and, as people began to gather in the Pine
Grove, word circulated that there was some very special punch
being served in a little glade. The punchbowl contained a mere
two quarts of fruit juice, but it had been laced with five
hundred tabs of pure Owsley LSD with a little psylocibin for
flavor and some mescaline for color. Fifty people consumed all of
it, little knowing just how potent the mixture was.
"This ain't Olympia beer," Bill commented after
sipping less than a fifth of a cup. Five minutes later it began
to come on very strong.
Gina brought Ramón a cupful which they shared before going
back for another to give Lou and Near who were visiting that day.
While they searched for their friends they took a few more sips.
Some 'acid virgins' and other innocents drank up to a cup and a
half. And it turned into a real, old-fashioned group acid
COYOTE: "I noticed all these people hanging around a
punchbowl, so I got in line for a full cup, and walked back and
filled up again. I didn't know what was happening, but then I saw
the guy who had been serving the punch, and he was lying on the
ground quivering, and I said, 'Wow! This must be dosed!'"
Ramón sat down and began playing his accordion, figuring he
had a half-hour to play music before enlightenment hit. Four
minutes later some very strrrange things began happening to his
insides. The LSD was hitting fast! People in the Pine Grove were
looking at each other strangely as if to say, "Wow, do you
feel what I feel?"
"We'd better go somewhere by ourselves," Gina said
to Ramón. "I'm getting very high! Is everything going to be
"Sure, sure," Ramón replied, not really so sure.
"But it's going to be a total wipe-out trip."
They walked down the hillside to a small clump of redwoods not
far from the community garden. Waves of energy were rippling
through the air and through both of them. The peaks kept getting
higher and higher and closer and closer together. Finally they
were flat on their backs. Back in the Pine Grove, people started
throwing up, their bodies trying to reject the overdose. No one
knew how much had been in the punch or how much they had taken.
Other people were rolling on the ground, screaming for help. One
girl began biting anyone near her between screams.
I think we've been poisoned," Gina gasped. "I've got
to get some water."
She staggered to the community garden water faucet, Ramón
wafting along behind her, his head spiraling off into the hot
summer sky. Errol and Sarah's son Moses and a couple of John and
Sue's kids were there. Gina doused her face and filled a gallon
"We've got to take water to the others," she said,
staring back up the hillside.
In Ramón's eyes she transformed into an Old Testament maiden
carrying life-saving water to her tribespeople. Now and then
another scream would escape from the Pine Grove and they would
put on a burst of speed.
"Get me some doooooooowners!" It was a cry from the
depths of hell. "Get me some doooooooooowners!"
Upon entering the grove, it seemed as if they had fallen into
some kind of demonic inferno. Bursts of frenzied drumming set a
backdrop for flashily dressed strangers who were walking
aimlessly around. Of all the people there, Ramón recognized only
one - Pat de Vita, a Morning Star sister, who looked
Lou sauntered up. "Well, Pat, looks like you've made it
this time," he said, implying she had finally gotten as high
as she could.
Nobody seemed interested in Gina's water jug, so she and
Ramón slowly made their way down the hillside, Ramón pouring
water over his head every few steps. Meanwhile, Cliff had run
down to the Willow Springs where he hid out for the rest of the
trip, feeling awful. Zen Jack sat on an adjacent hillside
intoning "In the beginning there was..." in a booming
voice but then forgetting what happened next. All day he would
almost find out what was in the beginning but then it eluded him
and he had to start all over again. "In the
Someone turned to Bill who had stayed on in the Pine Grove.
"This time you've gone too far," he said. "It's
Bill staggered down to Gwen who, seven months pregnant, had
avoided the punch and was hoeing her garden. What did he have to
do with creating this insanity, Bill wondered.
GWEN: "Bill was worried that people would get hurt, that
the cops were coming, that the water tank was running dry and
that any number of other calamities were imminent. What was
happening on the Ridge was so intense that he felt the whole
world was focusing its attention on us. I assured him that I
would look after all the details. We walked back up to the studio
where we found numerous bodies sprawled all over the floor. Half
were moaning for water, Garbage Mike was mumbling about trash and
cleaning up, and Zen Jack was still trying to find out what was
'in the beginning,' but as it faded from his grasp, he sank into
despair only to be raised again by his next flash of inspiration.
I went up to the front gate to turn on the water pump because
every faucet on the Ridge was wide open and crowded by crawling,
writhing, naked, muddy, stoned hippies. All along the road,
people were running around madly, shed of their clothes, with
expressions of searching horror. One man I had seen earlier
walking with crutches and thrown them away along with his
clothing and glasses and was crawling around like a baby in
search of its mother."
Finally some LSD veteran suggested that everyone gather in a
circle, hold hands and 'Om' together. That seemed to bring things
more under control for that particular group of trippers. Lou and
Near had missed out on the refreshments and reappeared walking
towards Ramón and Near from the garden. Near was golden and
naked, Lou in his white Hindu pants and shirt, both in their
normal, psychotic frame of mind.
"Gina! Ramón!" Zen Jack's voice boomed across the
meadow which he was descending with faltering footsteps.
"Come to me! Come to me!" His intonations were
"My God, you're all really stoned!" Near exclaimed,
staring at her friends. Zen Jack waved his skinny arms and
floated closer. Ramón held up the gallon jug and poured more
water over his exploding head. He felt that if he didn't touch
water every few minutes, he had no reference point for reality.
Zen Jack swooped around them, tweaking Near's Tampax string
before being tackled by a young amorous-looking male.
Some truly unearthly screams started from behind the Pine
Grove. They put Gina into a panic, and she went to lie down in a
mud puddle beside the faucet, her white nightgown turning brown.
Ramón felt irresistibly drawn to the screamer. If whoever it was
didn't stop, he thought, everybody will really freak out! Around
the curve of the road came Janie, naked and totally goodbye out
of it. Every few stops or so she emitted a truly unbelievable
holler. It came from deep inside of her, and she ended it with
her tongue protruding in a gagging reflex. Her old man Eric and a
few other guys were circling around, trying to hold her and calm
her down. Eric had a very neat necklace of bites she had given
him. The whole group drifted down to the by-now archetypal water
faucet where Lou was standing. He tried to calm Janie down. She
bit him, so he tried blowing his stack. No good. She lay on the
ground gasping like a landed fish. Ramón gave her some water
which helped temporarily. Now and then some nattily dressed
person came by and tried to assure everyone that the punch was
'the pure stuff,' but that a fifth of a cup was a full dose.
Laird and Vivian materialized out of nowhere, Morning Star
1967 graduates. Laird gave Ramón a nutty looks as if to say,
"Isn't life just too crazy to believe?" Somehow that
exchange of glances with his friend helped Ramón calm down. He
started tending first to Gina in the mud puddle and then Janie
flat on her back in the road, going back and forth. At one point
he looked up at Hoffie's Hill, and it seemed as if there were
hundreds of people lined up on it. Oh God, he thought, someone
has driven out and phoned in saying, "There are a hundred
people dying at Wheeler's! Send out the cops, the fire brigade,
the rescue squad! Help!" They must be throwing people into
ambulances, he thought. But then he faced his paranoia: "So
okay, they're hauling everyone away on stretchers, and all of
Occidental is up here watching the debacle. It can only bring all
of us closer together." The worst that could happen then
didn't seem so bad.
Some people did freak and leave. A girl up at the front gate
told newcomers, "Don't go down there. The Devil is
However no police came and no one telephoned from town for
assistance. The Ridge community worked it through on their own in
true Open Land tradition. Once again, the lack of easy access to
the outside had proved a blessing.
GWEN: "I walked back to the garden where Janie was
shrieking and biting everyone who came near here. Folks tried
different soothing tactics only to come reeling away clutching at
their wounds. As I left the garden and walked along the road, I
felt I was visiting the wildest mental hospital on earth. Within
the invisible walls of each person's 'cubicle,' a different crazy
human drama was unfolding. My stomach was sticking out pretty
far, and its glow of peace tended to surround people and bring
them out of their interior madness whenever I took their hand and
let the warmth of my center flow into them."
In the late afternoon, the wedding finally took place. It was
a strange, surrealistic ceremony with everything in slow motion.
The bride passed a bowl of wine to the bridegroom who dropped it.
The minister explained that the broken pieces of the bowl
symbolized the coming together of the bridal couple. Bill found
himself wondering about that.
Ramón began to suspect that the heat of the sun might be
playing an important part in keeping them all so crazy. He
personally felt the need for a cool, shady place. Gina was by now
lying on the manure pile while Janie was still thrashing in the
roadway. So he turned to a man named Harold who wasn't stoned and
asked for help in getting the women and himself into the barn.
Harold, a beautiful brother, escorted the women into the barn
where all four of them lay down on the sweet-smelling straw. He
exuded a calm, confident sympathy which reassured them that
everything was really going to be all right. They began to feel
much better. In the later afternoon, Gina went out to lie in the
sunshine. Bill came by and assured everyone that all was well if
not quite back to normal. Janie limped off on a blistered foot to
Ramón went to Bill's studio and found him entertaining, of
all people, a straight young woman from Freestone who was very
upset because a neighbor was going to butcher a steer. The animal
had been grazing in the lot across from her house and she felt
she had established a friendly relationship with it. She talked
for a long time about vegetarianism and how she was all for it,
but what could she feed her husband? She must have been
experiencing a 'contact high,' because she talked on and on,
obviously enjoying her visit, her first time on the Ridge.
RAMON: "This little touch of non-stoned reality felt
good. I then walked down to Gina, and we took a stroll to the end
of the land and back up to the studio with my accordion, laughing
and having a good time. The sun was setting, and a group had
gathered to watch the huge, ripe persimmon moon come up over the
hills. I played "Shine On, Harvest Moon" in fourteen
different psychedelic variations while Harold did a softshoe
routine and cracked silly jokes which made everyone laugh and
laugh. It felt so good just to be alive, to have survived with no
one dead or permanently flipped out."
Reports trickled in from all corners of the land. A beautiful
young girl named Claudia had fallen off Shanti the mare into a
bush. Cliff thought the revolution had started and thrown a rock
through a studio window. Some guy smeared shit all over himself
and ran around hugging everyone. Don and Sandy King, quietly
living by themselves at the bottom of the West Canyon, reported
later that the vibrations were not-to-be-believed strange from
'up top' that day. Everyone in his own way had gone through some
kind of hell and lived through it.
"Ah, psychedelic splendor," Gina intoned, with a
sweep of her hand to the stars.
And Bill believed that he had understood the agony and ecstasy
of man that day, the experience Aldous Huxley called 'Between
Heaven and Hell.'
DAMIAN: "Well, I drank that stuff and within two minutes
I couldn't walk, I just couldn't walk. So I figured well, if I
can't walk I'm gonna crawl, so I crawled out in the hot sun and
went around in circles for a while, and then the sky opened up
and I saw a couple of guys up there blowin' horns and I thought,
'Shit, man, it's the end of the world!' And there were ten or
fifteen people lined up below Hoffie's Hill in a straight line
waiting for the ambulances to come. I would've gone to the
hospital that day if somebody had taken me. Some helicopters flew
over that day too, and there were a couple of guys in army
uniforms, so I started thinking maybe we'd been dosed by the cops
with STP. I thought maybe it was like a joke or something that
the Santa Rosa officials were playin' on us.
Well, finally I crawled down into the canyon and puked my guts
out, and then I started feelin' pretty good! My old lady still
teases me about it. She says I went up the hill fully clothed,
you know, everything on, and when I came back I had lost
everything, my shoes, my pants, my ID, everything. I was
The story behind the punch was that the caterer, a rock
promoter from Seattle, enjoyed getting people so stoned that they
saw God. The week before he had done the same thing in San
Francisco at a rock concert and some fifteen people who saw too
much God went to the hospital. It was of no small credit to the
Ridgefolk that they had enough of a community and enough trust in
each other so that everyone got through the experience without
permanent harm. Whenever that day is talked about, and it still
remains one of the favorite stories among those who were there,
it is referred to as 'Black Sunday.'
ZEN JACK: "On Black Sunday I jumped up realizing the
whole thing! All the people being there, all the dope, the whole
situation taking place in such a freaked-out way, and I looked at
Lou and said, 'He's the one responsible! You're responsible for
this, Lou Gottlieb! And I said it in a happy way, zonked to the
limits, you know. So okay, Open Land is Black Sunday. And what's
Black Sunday mean to you? All pure lilies and flowers, but it's -
you know - your holy day and holiness can be black too. It takes
all forms. Now, for an outside observer to witness Black Sunday,
someone who hadn't experienced an acid trip or the Open Land
trip, it might have looked like a real bummer. You know, people
shrieking and falling about. But once you've taken acid, you know
what the situation is, and you know it's not so, ahh, ugly. It's
not so black. And afterwards, everybody said, 'Hey, you know
what? We lived through it, heh-heh!' Well, so what was Black
Sunday? It was something that couldn't have taken place probably
anywhere else in the world, not in a state park, not in the city
or in a private home somewhere. It only could have happened on a
piece of land ruled by anarchy or not ruled at all. It had to
happen where it was totally free to have whatever happened
COYOTE: "There was this guy down at the creek, and he was
scooping mud and holding it up to the sun and going, 'Gwurk!.' I
jumped off a cliff to see if I could hurt myself but I couldn't.
I'd never seen so many stoned people in my life, but I don't know
why it's called 'Black Sunday,' That's an exaggeration!"
BILL: "My own feelings about LSD are that it should be
taken sparingly and only in a supportive environment. If the
conditions are right, LSD can be enjoyable and educational, but
if they are wrong, expect a bum trip. Acid is inorganic.
Artificial fertilizer will produce big fruit but the food value
and the goodness are nothing compared to something organically
grown. Most people, after a certain amount of LSD-taking, find
they have gotten as much out of it as they can and turn to
spiritual and yogic disciplines for a more lasting attainment of
expanded consciousness. Chemical heightening of awareness can be
a trap and a dead end.
"Drugs have never been a problem on the Ridge. Extremely
popular, they are consumed as soon as they get here. A favorite
agricultural pursuit was growing your own. Rarely have any hard
drugs such as heroin, methedrine or other types of speed been
used on the land. Our isolation precluded a habit, and many
addicts came here to kick their addictions. It there was a
villainous drug on the land, it was alcohol. Any violence,
disturbance or trouble usually was caused by it. Drinking lowered
the vibrations and reinforced the worst in human behavior,
tendencies and desires. Future historians surely will find it
puzzling that our society made it legal and marijuana
COYOTE: "For the record, I'll challenge anybody to an
acid-eating contest anytime, any place, any where. I've tried
every drug there is to try, and I'm All-American. The prize is
the Cosmos, of which I am currently the President. I'll give up
my badge and trade positions if I lose. But when I tell people
how much acid I've eaten in my life, they don't believe me! They
refuse to believe me!"
ZEN JACK: "Open Land Boogie-man, Open Land Boogie-man!
Shut up, shut up, I'm the Boogie-man, Open Land's the Boogie-man!
Eat, sleep, shit, make love with the Boogie-Man! Now, once you've
learned how the Boogie-Man can be lived with, then you're not
afraid of him anymore. There is no Boogie-Man, nothin' to fear.
Death isn't to be feared because we're the grateful dead.
We come out here, and everything we had that we thought was
ours, physically, mentally, emotionally, gets ripped! Right? And
we stand naked, goofy, starin' at the sun, babbling great
blithering idiotic nothings, freaking on dope. Everything that's
considered to be of worth in straight society is totally lost,
surrounded with trash, disease, no future, our past is ruined,
we're a heap - hallelujah! Then when you stand up with nothin',
you realize where it's all comin' from. What's really worthwhile
isn't something that money can't buy me love, baby! Dum-de-dum, I
need some money and I need it fast, rip it off from the ruling
class... We are hippies, silly hippies! Yes, that's what you are!
"To be convinced to open your land, take any of your
problems, any one of your problems or hang-ups, and I bet you can
trace it to some sort of physical thing - a car, a woman, your
food, your house payments. Whatever it is, you know that if you
let go of it and don't watch over it, somebody else greedy enough
is going to latch onto it and take it away from you, and then
there's all that pain and horror and sorrow. So what you do is
you learn to let go, just let go of whatever it is you have,
especially land. Let go of it, and watch it get taken, and when
you learn to be taken and smile and not have it hurt, then you're
free of it. Now if you have property and you're hoarding it,
that's a selfish thing, and it causes pain for others and for
yourself. So let go, you know, and become extremely freaky like
Morning Star - Open Land people, where they let go of everything
in an unrealistic way, thank God, and then you'll learn a lot
about love and you'll be concerned more about others and
ultimately it'll all balance out. Let go of 'em all!
"That's what Black Sunday was all about, where you didn't
have a choice to let go or not, whether you wanted to live or
die. You just got killed, heh-heh. You were so ripped that you
just had no idea. Every now and then you'd pop back in and say,
'Oh yeah, I'm stoned on LSDeeee! Who's that? Where'd that bird
come from? Aha! That's my great uncle! I'll catch him by the tail
and fly off to the moon of seven veils!' It was a beautiful
party, see, the situation was perfect, good food, beautiful
colors, balloons, great day, good music, everyone relaxed. It was
my first day back in the country, and when somebody offered me
dope, I figured what do you need dope for? This is beautiful! You
don't need any dope because everybody's already high! And then
the dope came, and then the whole thing was just thrown out into,
unh, you couldn't say what it was. It was just the biggest dope
trip I'd ever seen!"