Did you know that LSD and hippies were invented by the CIA in the 1960s? No? Well, the idea was to hook kids on sex, drugs and rock & roll (hey, it worked!), so they would not overthrow the military industrial complex. Accomplices in this diabolical scheme were, in England, the Beatles and, in America, Jim Morrison, Frank Zappa and other residents of Laurel Canyon in L.A. Joseph Flatley dove down this conspiracy rabbit hole to find out how this happened…

There’s this guy from the CIA, and he’s creepin’ around Laurel Canyon…”

— Frank Zappa, “Plastic People”

Were you aware that Jim Morrison, Frank Zappa, “Papa John” Phillips, and David Crosby were all children of high-ranking members of the American military? Or that the Los Angeles neighborhood of Laurel Canyon, one-time home to all of the above, was also the location of the Air Force’s 1352nd Photographic Group? These factoids might not mean much to you, but according to the late conspiracy researcher David McGowan, they indicated a military psyop (psychological operation) of mind-blowing proportions. McGowan, who died in 2015, laid out the theory on podcasts, through his website Center for an Informed America (CIA, get it?) and later, in his book Weird Scenes Inside The Canyon: Laurel Canyon, Covert Ops, and the Dark Heart of the Hippie Dream.

McGowan claims that the hippie movement of the 1960s was conceived in a government lab somewhere as a way to defuse the nascent antiwar movement. The plan was, simply put, to hook the kids on rock music and hard drugs, taking their minds off of revolution in the process.

Perhaps the individual most emblematic of this scheme was Jim Morrison. “Morrison essentially arrived on the scene as a fully-developed rock star, complete with a backing band, a stage persona and an impressive collection of songs – enough, in fact, to fill the Doors’ first few albums,” McGowan writes. “How exactly Jim Morrison reinvented himself in such a radical manner remains something of a mystery… Jim Morrison’s band arrived on the scene as a fully-formed entity.”

The plan was, simply put, to hook the kids on rock music and hard drugs, taking their minds off of revolution in the process.

Perhaps it should be noted here that David MacGowan was not a stand-up comic mocking the lunatic fringe of conspiracy theory. Nor was he an acid casualty whose mind was blown after watching Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove. No. Not at all. He sincerely believed all of the above.

Was Gen. Jack D. Ripper the forerunner for David MacGowan? You make the call:

McGowan doesn’t tell us how he thinks Morrison made his stunning transformation. He merely notes how strange it is and leaves us to wonder about it. We’ll have to look at the work of another conspiracy researcher for some insight into that process.

John Coleman, in the tradition of so many conspiracy authors, claims that he first found out how the world really works while serving as an agent of Britain’s Special Intelligence Service. After he got out, the story goes, he made it his life’s mission to expose the cabal of Jesuits, Freemasons, Jesuit Freemasons, intelligence agencies, and others that secretly run the world on the behest of the Queen of England. Of course, like the vast majority of conspiracy culture’s so-called whistleblowers, all we have to go by here is Coleman’s word. And judging by his bizarre theories, his word is most likely not to be trusted.

“The phenomenon of the Beatles,” Coleman writes in his book The Conspirator’s Hierarchy, “was … a carefully crafted plot to introduce by a conspiratorial body which could not be identified, a highly destructive and divisive element into a large population group targeted for change against its will.”

The Fab Four, according to Coleman, were the vehicle that “social engineers” from a think tank called The Tavistock Institute of Human Relations used to manipulate American youth. He labeled this plan the “Aquarian Conspiracy.” The tin-eared Coleman confidently states:

Nobody would have paid much attention to the motley crew from Liverpool and the 12-atonal system of “music” that was to follow had it not been for an overabundance of press exposure. The 12-atonal system consisted of heavy, repetitive sounds, taken from the music of the cult of Dionysus and the Baal priesthood by Adorno and given a “modern” flavor by this special friend of the Queen of England and hence the Committee of 300. Tavistock and its Stanford Research Center … created a distinct new break-away largely young population group which was persuaded by social engineering and conditioning to believe that the Beatles really were their favorite group. All trigger words devised in the context of “rock music” were designed for mass control of the new targeted group, the youth of America.

Committee of 300

In other words, these four talentless (in his view) Liverpudlians were recruited, dressed up, given silly haircuts, and paid to perform music specifically designed to brainwash the youth. And it worked! I guess that we’re supposed to believe that after the process was perfected on The Beatles, it was taken to Southern California. Besides The Doors, McGowan implicates a large number of groups and musicians in his conspiracy theory, including:

  • The Byrds
  • Frank Zappa
  • Crosby, Stills, and Nash
  • Love
  • Gram Parsons
  • Neil Young
  • Poco
  • America

While McGowan doesn’t presume to tell us precisely who is responsible for this plot, he does imply that it’s the same military-industrial complex that escalated along with the Vietnam War, getting a major assist from Jim Morrison’s father, Admiral George Stephen Morrison.

Jim Morrison and his dad.

According to his New York Times obit, the elder Morrison “commanded American naval forces in the gulf [of Tonkin] when the destroyer Maddox engaged three North Vietnamese torpedo boats on Aug. 2, 1964. A skirmish and confused reports of a second engagement two days later led President Lyndon B. Johnson to order airstrikes against North Vietnam and to request from Congress what became known as the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, allowing him to carry out further military operations without declaring war.”

The Times fails to mention that the operation was under the aegis of something called OPLAN 34A, a series of covert operations targeting North Vietnam. These attacks were carried out by South Vietnamese mercenaries and Special Forces, with the United States in a support and advisory role. As Douglas Valentine points out in The Phoenix Program, this role included placing Navy SEALs in the South Vietnamese units. As is always the case, the use of “advisors” here was little more than a pretext for putting American boots on the ground in the days before it was legal.

According to McGowan, while Admiral Morrison was overseeing military operations in the Gulf of Tonkin — operations which, depending on who you believe, either accidentally or purposefully drew us into war in Vietnam — his son was being used as a tool to crush the peace movement at home.

Jim Morrison “crushing the peace movement” with “Peace Frog”:

Following the web from the United States Navy through Jim Morrison leads us to Frank Zappa. This connection was facilitated by Zappa’s wife, Gail, who like Jim Morrison was the child of a naval officer. In fact, as Barry Miles revealed in Zappa: A Biography, both Jim and Gail “used to play together in the same naval kindergarten in Virginia where, according to Frank, Gail once hit Jim on the head with a hammer.”

Frank Zappa’s father arrived in the United States from his native Sicily in 1908. A graduate of the University of North Carolina, Mr. Zappa spent his life “in the employ of the US military establishment,” as McGowan writes. This eventually brought him to the West Coast, where the family lived for a time in Lancaster, California. McGowan points out — and I suppose this is important, but he never says how — that other past residents of Lancaster include Clarence White (who replaced Gram Parsons in The Byrds), Dewey Bunnell of “A Horse With No Name” infamy, and Captain Beefheart himself, Don Van Vliet. McGowan also claims that the city of Lancaster is “right alongside” Edwards Air Force Base, although this isn’t accurate; the base is 22 miles northeast of the city. As it so happens, Area 51 is under the administration of Edwards AFB, so perhaps Zappa, Van Vliet, et. al, were working for whoever it is that’s been reverse-engineering extraterrestrial technology since the Roswell Incident in 1947.

Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention

In 1968, Frank and Gail Zappa were living at 2401 Laurel Canyon Boulevard, in a home referred to as the Log Cabin. This structure began life as a roadhouse in the early 20th century and was later the home to silent movie cowboy Tom Mix and his horse, Tony. The 2,000-square-foot, five-level house featured an 80-foot long living room and a bowling alley in the basement. It was here, according to McGowan, that Frank hosted a perpetual salon attended by “virtually every musician who passe[d] through the canyon in the mid-to-late-1960s.”

McGowan portrays Zappa as “a rigidly authoritarian control-freak and a supporter of U.S. military actions in Southeast Asia” who used his roles as a producer, label head, and one of the most famous freaks in America to bring down the anti-war movement. (Of course, there’s nothing to the rumor that Zappa supported the Vietnam war, but why let that ruin a good story?)

“Plastic People”-The Mothers of Invention, from the Absolutely Free album:

The world of conspiracy theory is big on establishing “connections,” the idea being that any time two things relate to each other, that relationship must be meaningful. That is why the fact that Jim Morrison lived in Laurel Canyon at some point, and that his father may have basically started the Vietnam War, can’t be a coincidence. (There’s a logical fallacy in there somewhere, but I can’t seem to find my copy of Why People Believe Weird Things, so I’ll leave that for another time.) The conspiracy researcher’s gig is to see the connections, to see reality for what it really is, and then present it to the rest of us innocent fools so that we might learn the truth. And the truth shall set us free, as David Icke—a British conspiracy theorist who claims a secret world government is run by undercover lizard people—once insisted.

McGowan’s work is generally little more than a litany of these “connections,” unsourced and hard to put into proper perspective. What are we to make of the fact that “some have claimed” that J. Edgar Hoover frequented a brothel in the Canyon, or that Frank Zappa’s father once worked at the Edgewood Arsenal chemical warfare facility (where the U.S. military conducted MK-ULTRA-type experiments on human subjects)? McGowan doesn’t really tell us — he just piles it all on, and then throws Charlie Manson and (for some reason) Harry Houdini into the mix.

David McGowan

Let’s reconsider that same passage from Weird Scenes quoted earlier:

“Morrison essentially arrived on the scene as a fully-developed rock star, complete with a backing band, a stage persona and an impressive collection of songs – enough, in fact, to fill the Doors’ first few albums. How exactly Jim Morrison reinvented himself in such a radical manner remains something of a mystery… Jim Morrison’s band arrived on the scene as a fully-formed entity.”

..there is a fascinating story here, and it’s right under the author’s own nose: the Laurel Canyon scene was, at its heart, built by the sons and daughters of the military-industrial complex…

McGowan spends a lot of time being blown away by the fact that The Doors, a group of, in his opinion, no-talent, non-musician hacks, led by a guy who can’t even read music is somehow responsible for some of the most enduring classics of 1960s rock. One has to wonder if McGowan ever bothered cracking open any of the gazillion books about the Lizard King—not to mention, listened to any of their albums. If he did, he’d surely know how The Doors evolved from Ray Manzarek’s bar band, Rick and the Ravens, and how Morrison was referred to by his fellow UCLA film school students as the “pudgy Navy brat” until he moved out on the beach, stopped eating, and started writing songs while flying high on LSD. (He also seems to have had some sort of eating disorder, at least during his “rock god” heyday.) McGowan, it turns out, only believes that the band appeared out of nowhere because he knows nothing about the band. That’s kind of par for the course with his book.

As I have listened to McGowan’s podcast appearances and plowed through his extremely dense writing on the Laurel Canyon conspiracy, I’m struck by how bizarre his conclusions are. He doesn’t realize it, but there is a fascinating story here, and it’s right under the author’s own nose: the Laurel Canyon scene was, at its heart, built by the sons and daughters of the military-industrial complex, many of whom were relatively well-to-do and and/or lucky enough to circumvent the draft, who formed their own little community for a brief time in a very special place. It was oftentimes a very dysfunctional scene, and it didn’t last very long, but while it did it was rather remarkable.

McGowan, a life-long smoker, died on November 22, 2015, six months after being diagnosed with lung cancer. His fans on the internet suspect that this, too, was a secret government plot.

Or, maybe they were just freaked out by that date: November 22. The anniversary of the JFK assassination…