During the late 60’s and early 70’s there were so many police raids on Woodland Drive, in the Laguna Canyon, that it got the nickname ‘Dodge City’.
What were the police after?
The biggest LSD, hashish and marijuana distributors in the US. The Brothers of Eternal Love.
One of these ‘raids’ resulted in the arrest of infamous Timothy Leary, who was living with the Brotherhood at the time.
It all started back in the early 60’s in Anaheim when a tight knit gang of hoodlum teenagers gave up their ways of drinking, stealing, heroin taking, weed selling and fighting for the enlightenment of LSD (acid).
The ‘mind expansion and ego-death’ of LSD had such profound effect on the gang’s charismatic leader John Griggs that he saw ‘God’ and the errors of their ways.
Consequently he dedicated his life to not only changing the ways of his gang of 20 or so guys but also to ‘enlightening’ the whole country.
How? By ‘dosing’ everyone with LSD, which in 1965 was legal. Oh, and marijuana was fine as well. They truly were going to follow Leary’s mantra of ‘Turn on, tune in and drop out’ which was laid out in his book The Psychedelic Experience which became the group’s bible to follow.
They changed their name to the Brotherhood of Eternal Love and hung out and ‘tumed on’ at Modjeska Canyon, a rustic secluded part of Orange County, and Tahquitz Falls outside of Palm Springs.
They later were also called by authorities as the ‘Hippie Mafia’. The Brotherhood name was not said out loud too often, and still kind of ‘hush hush’ to this day.
A number of the gang, including Griggs, worked for the Laguna Beach maintenance department, and they decided to move the group to Laguna Canyon’s Woodland Street.
If you haven’t been back there you should check it out since it hasn’t changed much with log cabins, clap board houses and a general earthy feel. There still houses that have no road and you have to walk down a path, Victory Walk to get to them. (Check out the pictures)
So at the same time, the hippie movement was starting and The Summer of Love was happening in San Francisco Haight-Ashbury district which was fueled by this great acid.
But that came to an end after the movement started attracting ‘runaways’ and ‘ne’er-do-wells’ that just wanted to party and weren’t looking for spiritual enlightenment.
When Haight-Ashbury lost its appeal, many of these hippies heard about how Laguna had become a haven for drugs and they came in droves.
Laguna Beach, which was conservative like the rest of OC at the time, was now a major center of the hippie movement.
They were living everywhere including the ‘Living Caves’ below Laguna’s Top of the World.
The runaway girls would do anything for some drugs and support resulting in a lot of ‘free love’.
So you can imagine that the relatively sleepy town like Laguna Beach was starting to get alarmed and they brought a cop, Neil Purcell, from Newport Beach to straighten things out.
He had no idea at that time what this stealth brotherhood in the canyon was up to. He was soon to find out.
One of the skills the brotherhood learned earlier as a gang in Anaheim was smuggling marijuana from Mexico.
Well they took it to a whole new level.
They were among the first to fly to Europe, drive to Afghanistan and buy huge quantities of hashish and hide it in the cars and ship the cars back. They did the same thing with hallowed out surf boards since many of the brotherhood were surfers. This went on for years.
As a matter of fact, the surfer in the legendary ‘Endless Summer’ movie, Mike Hynson was a member was smuggling hashish in his board as he traveled around the world in the movie’s search for the perfect wave.
Besides surfers there were also artists in the group and the ‘Dodge City’ community who went on to start the Sawdust Festival which is still a mainstay for Laguna and only a couple blocks from their enclave.
Well in 1967 acid became illegal and the product was not as stable as it had been, since you didn’t know who the source was, resulting in the infamous ‘bad trips’.
The brotherhood quickly responded in a few ways.
They became a legal tax exempt church, they opened the Mystic Arts World, a metaphysical head shop which is at 607 Coast Hwy (see pic) and they hired a chemist to make a super strong dose of acid called Orange Sunshine, which they sold for 10 cents a tab.
They made so much acid it ended up being used throughout the US from big cities to small towns, changing the whole landscape of America.
There was so much money and drugs in Dodge City that the local families dug holes all through the community and hills to hide their bounty from the raids that Purcell and his new partner were continually conducting.
Purcell was beside himself when he started finding out the extent of what was going on.
People were openly smoking joints throughout Laguna and hippies would be selling pot in front of Taco Bell which was near the Mystic Art World store.
Furthermore, Timothy Leary became a guest of the Brotherhood and was preaching his stuff all over the place. He even ran for California governor against Reagan.
Finally, one time Purcell was cruising ‘Dodge City’ and he stopped a car which resulted in Leary getting popped for a joint.
He was later sent to jail and the Brotherhood gave $25k to the Weatherman to break him out of jail, which they did.
It resulted in him exiling to Algiers where he lived with Eldridge Cleaver and the Black Panthers until they kicked him out since he smoked weed and that was against their rules.
Meanwhile Purcell was rewarded with police chief status.
By 1968 the utopian aspects of the movement was started show cracks and the law was now making inroads.
The Mystic Art shop mysteriously burnt down.
By 1970 most of the brothers split Laguna for Maui and other areas of the world.
But the Brotherhood was going to leave Laguna with a bang before they continued their journeys elsewhere.
A ‘Woodstock’ like concert was thrown by El Toro Rd and the Laguna Canyon Rd and 25,000 people showed up. The cops searched everyone and were nice enough to say if you put your ‘stuff’ in the provided trash bins they wouldn’t arrest you.
The cans were overflowing with everything you can imagine.
But during the concert a cargo plane, with its identification numbers covered, dropped thousands of Orange Sunshine tabs on the grounds making for a very interesting event. While the fact that there were tabs there is a question about how it got to the concert, helicpotor, plane, or smuggled in. For some reason no one can remember.
Meanwhile, some bad guys were claiming to be part of the sacred brotherhood, which was the original gangster core from their days in Anaheim, and conflicts, busts and deaths ensued.
John Griggs had held things together within the group but he died from an overdose of a new drug ‘synthetic psilocybin’ and the conflicts only grew.
There is so much more to the story outside of the Laguna ‘Dodge City’ days.
They built and lived on a commune on a ranch around Idyllwild and another in Oregon, and later they moved in mass to a lightly populated Maui, where Jimi Hendrix joined them in some movie making ventures and the advent of ‘Maui Wowie’ which actually was from Mexico and brought on a boat sailed by members of the Brotherhood.
If you want to learn more I recommend reading Nicholas Schou’s book ‘Orange Sunshine’.
Pretty incredible huh.