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Ken Kesey
Photo by Jon Hanna, 1999
Ken Kesey
Photographer Unknown
Ken Kesey
Photographer Unknown
Erowid Character Vaults
Ken Kesey
Summary
Born in La Junta, Colorado, Ken Kesey earned his journalism degree from the University of Oregon in 1957 and then studied creative writing at Stanford in the late '50s. While at Stanford he tried hallucinogens for the first time after volunteering for a government research program at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Menlo Park. As part of the program, Kesey was given LSD, psilocybin, mescaline, and AMT. During this same period of his life, Kesey worked as a psychiatric attendant at the hospital, which provided inspiration for his first novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. While at Stanford, Kesey lived at Perry Lane, a bohemian community in Palo Alto. He became known for throwing parties where psychoactive chemicals often found their way into the punch bowl.

After Cuckoo's Nest was published, Kesey purchased property in La Honda, California, where he and the Merry Pranksters threw their infamous Acid Test parties during the mid-'60s. These events, fueled by diverse and intriguing guests, day-glo decorations in the trees, music from hidden speakers, and plenty of LSD, were well documented. In 1964, Kesey and the Pranksters set out on a cross-country bus trip to the East coast in a psychedelically painted school bus named Furthur. Along the way they met, among others, Allen Ginsberg, Timothy Leary, Ram Dass, and Jack Kerouac. The trip has been immortalized by Tom Wolfe's book The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, as well as in the recent documentary Magic Trip.

Ken Kesey stood as a transition between the Beat Generation of the '50s and the Hippies of the '60s. He was an inspiration to many throughout his life, as attested by the more than 1,000 mourners who attended his funeral.
Author of (Books)
  • Kesey's Jail Journal (2003)
  • Last Round Up (1994)
  • Sailor Song (1992)
  • The Sea Lion (1991)
  • The Further Inquiry (1990)
  • Demon Box (1986)
  • The Day After Superman Died (1980)
  • Kesey's Garage Sale (1973)
  • Sometimes a Great Notion (1964)
  • One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1962)
  • Videos
  • Magic Trip: Ken Kesey's Search for a Kool Place by Alex Gibney and Alison Ellwood (2011)
  • Interviews
  • "One Crying in the Wilderness" (excerpt) [interviewed by Robert Faggen], The Paris Review (1994)
  • "An Interview with Ken Kesey by Mary Jane Fenex and Matthew Rick"
  • Remembrances
  • "Further Remembrance of Ken Kesey" by David Moses Fruchter, Erowid Extracts (Dec 2001)
  • "Ken Kesey, Author of 'Cuckoo's Nest,' Who Defined the Psychedelic Era, Dies at 66" by Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, The New York Times (Nov 2001)
  • "Ken Kesey: Off the Bus" by Nels Norene, vagabondsurf.com (2001)