Text & Photos: Castle
In honor of our ‘California Cult Tour,’ we decided to pay homage to our favorite state with a tour diary of a different sort. As we travel along, we’ll be probing the underbelly of California ‘cult’ure to see if there’s something in the air, water or the in case of our second entry, organic eats, that gives the golden state the advantage on weird. Read Part 1 here!
Thurs. Jan. 22nd – “The Source Family”
Where: Los Angeles/San Francisco, CA
Cult Type: Natural Food/Health
What Is It? A spiritual commune/cult that grew out of the Source Restaurant, one of the country’s first health food eateries in the late 1960’s. Owner Jim Baker, aka Father Yod, aka YaHoWha, ex-Marine, Judo expert, bank robber, confessed killer and spiritual father of the Hollywood Hills cult-y commune, had 14 wives amongst its 150 members; most of whom worked at the Sunset Strip restaurant serving raw, organic, and vegetarian food “consciously prepared for the highest vibration.”
California Twist: Yahowha 13, the worlds first “true cult” rock band was comprised entirely of Source Family members. Led by groove penetrator Father Yod himself on vocals, and featuring Sky Saxon of L.A. band The Seeds, Yahowha 13 released 9 albums of extreme and improvisational psychedelia, selling them out of the back of the Source Restaurant to patrons, including future members of Earth, Wind and Fire. Bonus: The Source Restaurant was also featured in the movie Annie Hall, where Woody Allen orders a plate of “alfalfa sprouts and mashed yeast” on the patio.
What Happened? After slaying Fresno last night, we stopped by the former San Francisco residence of The Source Family for a rejuvenating “Star Pose.” A lesser known address in the saga of robed Aquarians, this sprawling Victorian located on California St. in the city’s lower Pac Heights district provided a brief pause between the cult’s early, heady days in L.A. and the untimely demise in Hawaii that followed.
Fear Meter: 0 out of 10.
Last Words: Dawning of the Age of Aquarius.
Fri. Jan. 23rd – “Peoples Temple”
Where: San Francisco, CA
Cult Type: Suicide/Political/Religious
What is it? A religious cult based on communist ideology started in 1955 by Jim Jones, best known for the mass suicide (and murder) of over 900 of its followers in Guyana in 1978.
California Twist: On Memorial Day, 1977, Jones and six hundred followers turned out for a huge anti-suicide demonstration at the Golden Gate Bridge, the irony of which Jones himself might of tried to clarify with his last words to the world, recorded just before the mass suicide/murder he orchestrated, “We didn’t commit suicide, we committed an act of revolutionary suicide protesting the conditions of an inhumane world.” Bonus: “Drink the Kool-Aid” enters our lexicon/nightmares, never to leave again.
What Happened? The original Peoples Temple headquarters at 1859 Geary St. in San Francisco was long ago torn down and left a vacant lot for years. Now a post office, we decided to kill two birds with one stone and take care of mailing the rest of “California Cult” shirt pre-orders. Once inside, it was hard to imagine anything insidious happening in such a banal place; the jungle of Guyana never seemed so far away.
Fear Meter: 2 out of 10. Just the usual anxiety of waiting in line of a post office.
Last Words: No one here gets out alive.
Sat. Jan. 24th – “Zodiac Killer”
Where: Vallejo, CA
Cult Type: Serial Killer/Popular Culture
What is it? A cult of one that rained murder and mayhem on Northern California between 1966 and 1970. The Zodiac claimed to have killed 37 victims in letters to the press, but only 7 victims are confirmed, including 2 survivors. His identity remains unknown.
California Twist: The subject of countless movies, books and songs (he even had a cult following of zodiac symbol-ed, pin-adorned teens during his murderous spree), the Zodiac was a skilled cryptographer, albeit a terrible speller, who sent a series a taunting letters to police via local newspapers, some which remain undecipherable to this day. Bonus: He’s probably dead.
What Happened? After a riotous show in San Francisco playing alongside psych/thrash legends Blind Illusion, we head for Sacramento via Lake Berryessa. Located just off Interstate 80 West, Lake Berryessa was the site of the infamous daylight Zodiac attack of a picnicking couple “by knife.” What might of been slightly unnerving during the day proves unbearably so at night. We didn’t stay long.
Fear Meter: 9 out of 10. See above.
Last Words: A short, sharp shock.