Ken Kesey, The Merry Pranksters And The “Watts Acid Test”

Compton, CA–Ken Kesey is an author known for his best selling novel, “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest,” which was made into a film starring Jack Nicholson. Before his success as a novelist, Ken Kesey was introduced to the world of mind altering drugs while a student at Stanford University. 


Kesey is said to have been introduced to the world of CIA funded LSD projects before LSD was made illegal in the U.S. 

Kesey and his “Merry Pranksters” were a group of psychedelic enthusiasts who are accredited with ushering in the first wave of the hippie movement due large in part to their “acid test” parties.

Kesey traveled to places including San Fransisco State College, San Jose, Palo Alto, Santa Cruz, as well as Portland Oregon, hosting acid test parties with provocative fliers asking, Can you Pass the Acid Test?

Los Angeles was not exempt from the Merry Pranksters who traveled around in a school bus painted in a swirl of psychedelic colors named ‘Further’.

The Grateful dead also got their early start providing live music during the acid tests.

It is unclear on why exactly the acid test in was held at a place that at the time associated as a center for the youth of Compton. Although the acid test has long been attributed to being held in Watts, the event location and time on the original flier allegedly reads: 13331 South Alameda, 8 PM. $1 admission, which is technically Compton. Compton and Watts actually neighbor each other.

Read More: Acid Test Handbill 1966 Watts / Southern California by Wes Wilson

This particular part of the Youth Opportunities Center were the acid party was held is said to have been a vacant warehouse. 

9027 S. Figueroa St. is the address where the acid test is said to have taken place widely online. Present day the building stretches an entire block and is home to the local Prince Hall Masons.

A ‘Hall For Rent sign can be seen on the side of the building.

“Imagine Watts, only a few months after the riots, on acid. Watts! The very Watts where hardly five months before the freaking revolution of the Blacks had broken out. All us crazy-looking middle class white kids all dressed up in weird things with goony eyes. I remember the black people in the neighborhood standing out there laughing. They found it hilarious.”

9027 S. Figueroa St. present day where the Acid test is said to have taken place widely online.

My interest was sparked into this piece of history when I read the word Acid test and Watts in the same sentence, long before learning that the Merry Prankster experiments had ties to the CIA.

Inner city communities in the U.S and in Los Angeles in particular, have a long history of drugs being funneled to intentionally and permanently throw the community off course.

Ken Kesey is also not shy to tell you out his own mouth of the CIA’s involvement in his LSD journey.

“Doctor’s did not have the ball’s to do it themselves so they hired student’s to do it. The CIA brought LSD into the U.S.A. The government was giving you drugs, it was bound to be the good stuff, and it was,” Ken Kesey.

The Compton/Watts acid test was set on Lincoln’s birthday.

“They hatched the idea of an “Acid Tests” which would be public multimedia parties featuring film, music, sound, and light which had to be done while LSD-25 was still legal. These “Acid Tests” were designed not so much to harness but unleash the potential of the extraordinarily powerful hallucinogen.”

It is unclear on the number of African-American’s who attended this acid test and to what extent the use of acid was spread to the local community. Acid has never been a drug that African-Americans have been known to use widely.

Online accounts reveal that white people were definitely present and participating at the Compton/Watts acid test.

The Acid Tests

Santa Cruz Nov 27, 1965
San Jose Dec 4, 1965
Muir Beach Dec 11, 1965
Big Beat Palo Alto Dec 18, 1965
Portland Oregon Dec 24, 1965
Fillmore Auditorium Jan 8, 1966
Longshoreman’s Hall Trips Festival Jan 21-23 1966
Portland, Oregon Jan 13, 1966
California Sound City Studios Trips Festival Mandatory Jan. 29
Northridge Unitarian Church Feb 5 1966
Youth Opportunities Center Watts Feb 12, 1966
Cinema Theater Feb. 25, 1966
Danish Center Mar 12, 1966
Carthay Studios Pico Mar 19, 1966
Troupers Club Ma. 25, 2966
Longshoreman’s Hall Trips Festival Apr 22-24 1966
PNE Garden Auditorium Trips Festival Jul 29-31 1966 (Canada)
“What’s Happening” Festival Sept. 30, Oct 1-2 1966

Acid Test Fliers Via:

About slausongirl

Slauson Girl is a South Central native who has a love for journalism, history and all things Hip-Hop. She holds a B.A in Critical Race & Gender Theory & a Minor in Journalism.

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One comment

  1. Anytime there is an uprising in the urban areas there is influx of drugs and everything from heroin, water, weed and speed is readily available to calm to natives down. This tactic is not new they used it in the Watts uprising, the Black Panther movement, and the LA uprising. We keep feeling for the okeydoke every time. Keep up the good work Slausongirl you’re a true journalist of and for the people. ☮️ & ♥️

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