Merry Pranksters go to the movies

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In 1963, Ken Kesey and his Merry Band of Pranksters outfitted a school bus with state-of-the-art film cameras, tape recorders, and high-tech trip toys and hit the road. All that's left besides the acid-drenched memories are photos and 40 hours of footage that directors Alex Gibney and Alison Ellwood edited into a new film, titled "Magic Trip: Ken Kesey’s Search for a Kool Place." Pegged on the documentary's release, Smithsonian recounts the quintessential road trip:
 Images Magic-Trip-Gretchen-Fetchen-The-Slime-Queen-3 “What they were doing was glorious, fun and magical in the best sense of the word,” Gibney says. The director sees Kesey as an artist and adventurer who was at heart a family man, the coach of his local school football and soccer teams. “In a way, the bus trip is kind of Kesey’s art piece,” Gibney argues. “I think part of his mission was to be a kind of Pied Piper for a country that was just enveloped in fear. He was saying, ‘Come out of your bomb shelter. Have fun. Don’t be trapped in a maze.’”

Gibney agrees that Kesey was attracted to the chaos of the journey, a chaos amplified by the extraordinary amounts of drugs consumed by the Pranksters.

Unlike many of his followers, Kesey tried to use drugs to explore his personality, not to repeat the same experiences. “You take the drug to stop taking the drug,” he said.

"Ken Kesey’s Pranksters Take to the Big Screen"


  1. While Kesey had the money to finance the initial voyage cross-country, fully half the credit for the endeavour belongs to the actual and original ‘Intrepid Traveller,’ cohort Ken Babbs. Babbs is still out there, as well as being still ‘out-there.’ It took two Kens to make this legend happen…

  2. “You take the drug to stop taking the drug”

    You’ll never hear that in a pharmaceutical ad.
    …unless Terry Gilliam uses it in a movie.

  3. I always believed the destination board said, “Furthur”. I guess I fell for something or other. 

  4. It started out Further as in the pic above.  They changed  to Furthur when they heard the cops were on the look out for a bus with Further on the front.  So Furthur was their the disguise.

  5. Raw footage is nice, but I don’t think the movie could possibly live up to Tom Wolfe’s unforgettable classic on the Merry Pranksters, The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test. Now that’s a book. I read that when I was like 16 or so, and I remember thinking it was the most exciting, hilarious and insanely interesting thing I’d ever read.  It’s not just the crazy antics of the rollicking crew, it’s how Tom Wolfe understands and interprets and describes everything he sees. Get on the bus and read the book, if you have not had the pleasure. It’s quite the thrill ride. :)

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