Three Bizarre Stories

Chapter 9

Here I will stop and relate three incidents taking place in three separate years, events that were each bizarre in their own way. They illustrate the outrageous extent to which those involved in the San Francisco hippie scene had sunk into degradation, even evil, and how they desperately needed rescuing. The stories also convey a certain sense of adventure inherent in our work there, although some of it we would have been happy to avoid.

A warning must be issued at this point: the following stories are bizarre, but more than that. I have stopped short of excessively lurid detail, but the subject matter of two of the stories might disturb impressionable readers.

The 1967 Story

David and I regularly walked up and down Haight Street during 1967, and we were meeting dozens of people every day. One girl we encountered (I will call her Sherrie) hailed from Sun Valley, a town at the northern edge of the San Fernando Valley. She was a seventeen- or eighteen-year-old runaway of Italian descent, and she was beautiful in every way.

One or the other of us came across her several times over the course of maybe two months. We had no idea how she was surviving on the streets and couldn’t tell whether our witnessing was making a dent or not. She did hang out with a small group of kids, some of whom we also got to know during our forays.

One afternoon, one of Sherrie’s friends ran up to us, agitated, and announced that Sherrie was being initiated into a satanic cult at that very moment. The friend led us to the place, a store front right on Haight Street, but the windows were covered and we couldn’t see in. The door was locked; no one answered our knocking, and we didn’t know what to do next. Before giving up we went around to the back of the store. Again, we couldn’t see in, but we could hear things, weird sounds that reminded us of chanting. Faintly, we could see lights flickering as though candles were burning. We decided to act.

We smashed open the door and rushed in. The room we entered was mostly dark with only a few candles providing any light. My impression is that there were maybe six or seven people huddled around a table in the center of the room. As we approached, most everyone scattered to reveal Sherrie lying naked on the table with someone in a black robe shaving her pubic area.

David and I pushed the people aside, picked Sherrie up off the table, and quickly half-carried/half-walked her toward the front door. We managed to open it, and in a moment we were on Haight Street, in mid-afternoon, on a summer day, with a naked teenage girl in tow. We peeled off our own shirts and covered her as fully as possible. Immediately, we headed for the car, which was parked one block down on Waller Street, and away we went.

No one followed us out of the store. If they had, there would have been a big melee that would certainly have brought the cops, and it would have been a difficult situation to explain. Once back in Marin, we called Sherrie’s parents and arranged for her to fly home, which happened the very next day.

Sherrie’s friend had been correct; she was being initiated into a mini satanic cult that focused on dope and sex.

About a year later I visited Sherrie and her parents in Sun Valley. They lived in a duplex on Glenoaks Blvd., the street I always took to get to my brother’s house in Glendale. I had ridden down on a big road bike, and I have a photo that Sherrie’s dad took of me with his daughter posing on the back of the bike in front of their place. Every time I pass that way, I think of the day David and I committed felony breaking and entering and rescuing. 

The 1968 Story

I was alone when this story unfolded. For weeks I had been walking past a store front near the corner of Cole and Haight Streets, close to where the Safeway Market stood on the corner of Stanyan. In the window was a sign notifying readers that a satanic priest was available for consultations.

I could see that in the center of the room was a desk with a chair behind it, and against the opposite wall was another chair. The desktop was bare—no phone, nothing. And there was nothing on the walls. All was empty, drab, and kind of gloomy.

There were businesses on either side and what I thought were apartments above. For weeks I often stopped at that storefront and stood there staring in and knocking on the door. My behavior might have been seen as strange, since it was obvious the place was deserted. But one day a man was sitting at the desk.

It was the middle of the afternoon as I stood at the window and tried to size the situation up. Of course, I had to knock, and when I did, the man at the desk just sat there unmoving.

He looked to be about thirty years of age, not a hippie but clean-shaven with short hair. He simply sat there, with nothing in this hands and nothing on the desk. I couldn’t resist, so I turned the doorknob, found it was unlocked, and walked in.

He said nothing. I picked up the chair and moved it closer to the desk and sat down. After a few seconds, I began to question him. “Who are you?” “What are you doing here?” He responded, little by little, not making much sense or really answering my questions.

Then, after a couple minutes of this, I heard a loud explosion, like a sonic boom. Then another and another, maybe a dozen. Loud, really loud, ear splitting loud, and the guy at the desk seemed not to notice. I tried to keep up some kind of conversation while the loud booming went on. One crash seemed to come from the ceiling, the next time a wall, then another wall, then the ceiling again, then the floor—boom, boom, boom, louder that an M80 firecracker going off.

Finally, I couldn’t take it any longer and walked out. Stunned, I walked up the street, away from the park, and tried to make sense out of what I had just experienced. I collected myself to some degree and  decided to go back and get to the bottom of it.

The guy was gone, but all else was the same. I began to wonder if I had not been slipped some LSD or something else. I assured myself I was in my right mind and decided to check whether anyone else had heard the booming; I thought it must have been heard for blocks.

What a shock as I went up and down the street and across the street, knocking on doors, describing what happened, and no one, not one person had heard a sound. Over the years, I have turned it around a thousand times in my mind and have been able to come up with only one explanation.

During deliverance ministry, where demons were cast out, there were often times when the demons attempted to frighten us by one means or another—threats, physical violence, and screaming, to name a few. Perhaps that’s all it was—the noises were intended to scare me away. And, I must admit, if that was the case, it worked.

The 1969 story

Steven Gaskin was a spiritual guru type who attracted hundreds of hippies. Down in the Richmond District just up from Ocean Beach, he took up shop in a storefront or some kind of hall and held what was known on the streets as the “Monday Night Class.”

Gaskin was an eclectic, meaning he gathered his ideas from various places. He was older, educated, street wise, spiritually wise, and a compelling speaker. I had heard of him for some time, but since I never heard of him visiting the Haight, I paid him little heed. Then I heard that he was teaching tantric yoga to the hippies, meaning they were getting naked, pairing off, and having sex while Gaskin instructed them. This I had to see.

One Monday evening, I made the trip by car from Marin where I was living. Sure enough, what I heard was true. Within ten feet of the front door, in the semi-darkness, dozens of couples were having sexual intercourse while Gaskin sat in the lotus position up on a raised platform and coached them. Part of his line was that union with god is approached through human union, and that meant intercourse. So, everyone was getting spiritual.

I came back on the next few Mondays armed with a flyer I had written that started shaking things up. It did not take long before I was causing a problem, but I persisted and persisted, until finally I was barred and ignored.

That is not the end of the story, however. It was not long before Gaskin and crew, now called The Farm, moved out of San Francisco and headed east for an actual farm. The strange thing is, they stopped for a rest stop in their big yellow buses in Nashville, Tennessee, at the very moment and at the very spot I was standing that day.

I do not recall why I was in Tennessee at all, probably speaking at a church in the city, and I just happened to be downtown by the Grand Ole Opry, when the first bus showed up. Instantly, I knew who they were by the writing on the sides of the buses, but imagine their surprise and exasperation! I was the first person each one saw as they got off the bus, and the last person they wanted to see.

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