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Good vibes in Ashland? (Ashes to Ashland)

Andrew W. Griffin / Red Dirt Report
Photo of story on front page of USA Today about the aftermath of Woodstock and its generation.
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OKLAHOMA CITY – In December 2017, I wrote a Dust Devil Dreams post titled “Goin’ to Ashland,” which addressed the high strangeness surrounding the seemingly quiet, small city of Ashland, Kentucky.

As I wrote at the time: “In Peter Levenda’s book Sinister Forces: The Nine: A Grimoire of American Political Witchcraft, the author gives particular important to the Ohio River-side city of Ashland, Kentucky.

Levenda was drawn to this city for various esoteric reasons, including the fact that murder mastermind and cult figure Charles Manson – who died exactly one month ago– had lived in Ashland for a time, having been born down river in Cincinnati, Ohio. He also spent time in Kenova, West Virginia, not far from Ashland, hometown of Bobby Joe Long, a serial killer who was nabbed in Florida in 1983. The notion is that there is a “sinister force” in this region of the United States that has adverse effects on certain people who live in these areas is something to consider, particularly when provided copious amounts of evidence to point one in that direction.”

With each passing day this bizarre month of August 2019 (and tonight is a full moon, to boot!), new revelations sync/linking dark events in 1969 with breaking stories in 2019 – 50 years! – seem to surface.

With today, August 15th, being the 50th anniversary of the kick-off of the Woodstock Music and Art Fair that took place Aug. 15-19, 1969, it is interesting to see USA Today’s front-page article, “Are the good vibes gone?”, asking the question: can we go back to Yasgur’s Farm in upstate New York and re-discover the peace and freedom that 500,000 music and art fans were seeking that hot, muddy (and violent) summer? The "peace and love" was a mirage by the end of the year. Too much murder. Too many bad vibes.

Just a week before, in Los Angeles, the Manson Family had committed mass murder in what would later be known as the Tate-LaBianca murders, something that has been re-examined, to a certain degree, in Quentin Tarantino’s new film Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.

Today, after hearing parts of an interview by Michael Smerconish of author Tom O’Neill, whose recently-published book, Chaos: Charles Manson, the CIA and the Secret History of the Sixties (check out this positive review in The Guardian), where O’Neill mentions hearing a secret recording of Manson where he sounds practically erudite, I change channels for some reason and and there is a reporter talking about her investigation into a Kremlin-linked firm – Rusal – that managed to get into a poor corner of northeastern Kentucky – Ashland, as it turns out – and begin building a $1.7 billion aluminum mill there. It would employ 600 people and, according to a stunning TIME magazine article, it would do more than just turn aluminum slab into “cars, planes and soda cans,” but it would “rebuild northeast Kentucky, and in fact all of Appalachia,” as a result.

But questions remain over the Ashland aluminum mill deal, as TIME notes, mentioning that Craig Bouchard, CEO of Braidy Industries, made what some consider a “Faustian bargain,” as it were, in this case, with a close pal of Russian leader Vladimir Putin – Oleg Deripaska. And while the article notes Deripaska has not broken any US laws, it goes on to say: "Deripaska denies he has interest in meddling in U.S. affairs. “If they didn’t touch me, I wouldn’t have to be so interested in U.S. politics,” Deripaska told TIME in February, after attending a panel with U.S. lawmakers in Munich. “But here I am,” he added with a smile."

There are questions about the wisdom of this decision, something that Republican Senate Speaker Mitch McConnell, who represents Kentucky, seemingly aproved. And while there are growing concerns about Russian influence and meddling in American affairs, some suggest to prevent Rusal from having the new plant would only hurt Americans in need of jobs, particularly in economically-depressed Ashland and its surrounding environs in Appalachia. McConnell allegedly said he had no idea that Rusal was linked to the Kremlin. This coming from a guy who was publicly called "Moscow Mitch" by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi a day or so ago. McConnell hates being called "Moscow Mitch." 

The Ohio River at Louisville, Kentucky. (Andrew W. Griffin / Red Dirt Report)

What is it about Ashland? As someone said after noting syncs regarding Manson and current events, “We are living in Levenda’s timeline.” It would seem so.

As I wrote in “Goin’ to Ashland,” there seems to be a dark cloud hanging over this Ohio River town in a state that translates as "dark and bloody ground," dating much farther back than even when Manson lived there for a spell. Levenda notes how that winged portent of doom – “Mothman” – terrorized Point Pleasant, West Virginia, located about an hour or so upriver from Ashland, prior to the collapse of the Silver Bridge in December 1967.


Ashland grew up as a city known “Where Southern charm blends with the industrial Northeast.” Indeed, with iron furnaces and Ashland Oil, the city grew to more than 20,000 souls.

Levenda was drawn to Ashland in hopes of learning more about Charles Manson. But it was the Indian mounds that really grabbed him, noting that (quoting another author): “No city in the state of Kentucky … contains so much evidence of prehistoric occupation as the city of Ashland.”

Later Levenda notes that as Ashland grew – over the mounds of the ancient Adena people, writing: “If there are evil spirits in Ashland, one wonders if they would be the souls of the ancient dead whose millennia-old sleep has been disturbed by businessmen and Boy Scouts.

And did something happen to Manson when he lived in Ashland all of those years ago, and at other locations along the Ohio River, a river with dark distinctions in American history.

As the Associated Press noted on Aug. 13, 2019: “Ecstasy was in the air in 1969, but so was escape, itself rooted in the possibility of a better world — somewhere. Robert F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. had been assassinated the year before and the counterculture’s longtime enemy, Richard Nixon, was president. More than half a million American troops remained in Vietnam and reported crimes had more than doubled since 1960.

Joan Didion would remember the Manson murders less as a shock than as a confirmation, writing that as “word of the murders on Cielo Drive (where Sharon Tate lived) traveled like brushfire through the community,” the “tension broke” and “the paranoia was fulfilled.”

Tom Carson's article today in the Los Angeles Times, "Woodstock glorified them. Tarantino barbecued them. In 2019, whither the hippie?"

Writes Carson: "Even as the counterculture began slouching toward narcissism, the dregs of the original hippie impulse had sprung out of Spahn Ranch in horrifically grotesque form. Con artists in guru disguise had been preying on zonked-out runaways and escapees from privilege from almost the earliest days of the Haight-Ashbury scene, but only Charles Manson fantasized about luring them into butchery to instigate a race war."

Or, as "crackpot historian" Adam Gorightly wrote in his excellent 2001 book The Shadow Over Santa Susana, noted in a book review I wrote in 2015: "

"(Y)ears later and Charles Manson still holds our attention almost as much as he did back when the Age of Aquarius started to curdle ....

We get the backstory. Charlie's sad tale of imprisonment and later hanging out with Hollywood celebrities and befriending the Beach Boys and other rockers of the era. Collecting acolytes, particularly women, along the way. They would do his bidding. The spawn of Spahn Ranch. Charlies' outlaw attitude was actually masquerading as "peace, love and communal hugs," he writes. A monster was coming into his own, and the Fab Four (or Fab Three, depending on where you fall on the whole "Paul is Dead" trip) helped trigger Manson's "actions," (?) leading up to 10050 Cielo Drive on August 9, 1969, right after the Beatles crossed that stygian Abbey Road, on their way to a funeral.

“Charlie felt that the Beatles were beaming subliminal messages that on a conscious level were unknown even to them,” writes Gorightly. “During the Tate-LaBianca trial, Manson was quoted: ‘I think it’s a subconscious thing. I don’t know whether they did it or not. But it’s there. It’s an association of the subconscious. This music is bringing on the revolution, the unorganized overthrow of the Establishment. The Beatles know in the sense that the subconscious knows.


Hidden messages on '66 Beatles comp Yesterday ... And Today (with the "Butcher" cover). (Andrew W. Griffin / Red Dirt Report)

One particularly interesting thing about Once Upon a Time In Hollywood, there is not one single reference to The Beatles. At least not one I remember. No music, either. Perhaps it was too expensive to utilize their songs. Or maybe the remaining Beatle(s) want to distance themselves from Manson's "Helter Skelter" nightmare, one that seems to stretch back to 1966 and the burgeoning Laurel Canyon music scene that seemed to come from out of nowhere, at least to the late rock historian and conspiracy researcher Dave McGowan, in his book Weird Scenes Inside the Canyon.

As I noted in my review of McGowan's 2014 book: "And sure, we’ve heard rumors about Charles Manson and his songwriting abilities. All true. And members of the Beach Boys (primarily surfer/drummer Dennis Wilson) were among Charlie’s besties. This Wilson brother would die under mysterious circumstances as well, dying while swimming in 1983. Indeed, the canyon has some dark and winding roads – many of them leading to mysterious “suicides.

Note the price of the cheap pocket watch J.J. Gittes places under Hollis Mulwray's car tire ... $1.19." (Paramount)

Rewatching Chinatown earlier today, I am reminded of how the topsy-turvy case was, as the late Roger Ebert noted years ago: "(J.J. Gittes, played by Jack Nicholson) (s)tumbling across murders, lies and adulteries, he senses some larger reality beneath everything, some conspiracy involving people and motives unknown." And while the general conspiracy is revealed, there still is something darker and more sinister going on. Interesting that Roman Polanski is in the film he directed, warning Gittes to keep his nose out of affairs he has no business investigating. And we know his history. Same for John Huston, who plays corrupt millionaire Noah Cross. McGowan notes both Huston and Nicholson's unseemly antics in Weird Scenes Inside the Canyon.

So, what does this all mean? Not really sure. Just putting pieces together here as I listen to Paul Revere & The Raiders' Spirit of '67 album, which is highlighted in Once Upon a Time In Hollywood, as it is a favorite of Sharon Tate's. She loves "Good Thing," for instance. Why? Well, a lot of songs on the album, like "Good Thing," were written in Terry Melcher's house in the fateful year of 1966, something i note in my new book Rock Catapult: 1966 - The Launch of Modern Rock & Roll.

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Andrew W. Griffin

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Andrew W. Griffin received his Bachelor of Science in Journalism from...

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Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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