Robert Anton Wilson R.I.P.

Robert Anton Wilson was pretty much responsible for a lot of things (Buckminster Fuller, Marshall McLuhan, secret societies, Church Of The SubGenius, giant squid, the MC5) that have entertained/enlightened me over the years. One of the few times I ever went out of my way to get a book signed was to have Wilson sign my copy of the Illuminatus trilogy. In return he made me a Discordian Pope.

As reported all around the Web recently, Wilson had been in pretty ill health and this morning he finally passed away. The last post on his blog being:

Various medical authorities swarm in and out of here predicting I have between two days and two months to live. I think they are guessing. I remain cheerful and unimpressed. I look forward without dogmatic optimism but without dread. I love you all and I deeply implore you to keep the lasagna flying.

Please pardon my levity, I don’t see how to take death seriously. It seems absurd.


There are two stories that immediately come to mind. One of them I was mixed up with and the other one I wasn’t.

In 1991 or 1992, there was an event at the Masonic Temple on Wilshire here in Los Angeles called “Millennial Madness.” As part of the festivities, Wilson directed a live-action game entitled “The Conspiracy Game” (or something close to that). No one really knew what the game was going to be like, much less what the context was, or what would even constitute a victory condition. Even then, that’s assuming that such a game could even be “won.”

Anyway, me and a confederate figured that it would be endlessly fun and worthwhile to hack it. Earlier that day we printed up “game effect cards” which contained official-looking instructions to do things like:

  • Walk like Richard Nixon on psychotropic drugs
  • Channel *Zontar* the extragalatic alien entity
  • Feel their “eyes” upon you
  • Fight for truth, justice, and the American Way!
  • Talk like Donald Duck on Prozac
  • Sing a song!
  • ANGST!
  • Conduct a funeral mass for Oscar The Grouch
  • Act alternative!
  • Summon Cthulhu
  • Scheme! Don’t let others keep you from your God-given right to be a megalomaniac!
  • Don’t worry, and be happy!
  • Pray
  • Howl at the moon (or at anyone else)

The cards stated how long the game effect should last and to pass the along to someone else once the effect expired. The two of us dressed up like M.I.B.s, acted as most authoritative as we could, and went to town…

Mild pandemonium resulted. People weren’t sure what was going on with the real game, but the game effect cards were circulating everywhere. Adding to the chaos, we handed out floppy discs instructing people to “do not let this out of your sight until you make contact with your controlling agent. Your controller will notify you with a sign at the appropriate time.” Given the cryptic nature of the game to begin with, no one was really sure what was going on except that a couple hundred people were experiencing multiple levels of weapons-grade confusion. In conclusion: job well done.

We decided that the high point of the evening was when someone gave the “Talk like Donald Duck on prozac” card to Wilson himself, and he did it!

Just prior to the Millennial Madness prank, Wilson was interviewed on a late-night radio talk show here in L.A. One caller asked him if he knew anything about Disneyland being laid-out in a geomantic pattern – similar to how the Washington D.C. street layout contains Masonic symbols. Wilson said that he hadn’t heard of anything like that but related a story of a friend of his who every year would take LSD just before going into Disneyland. When he would peak, the guy would go into the room with the animatronic Mickey Mouse and ask Mickey philosophical questions and what he should do for the next year. Mickey would reply. Wilson observed “here’s a guy whose God is visible, tangible, and responds to questioning. I think he’s very lucky.”

Keep the lasagna flying indeed. Ewige Blumenkraft!

About Chris Barrus

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2 Responses to Robert Anton Wilson R.I.P.

  1. Victoria says:

    Unbelievably, a handful of Wonka’s Train World-era “game effect cards” have managed to follow me all the way to Seattle. I think they’re the ones that inspired the set we brought to that RAW event.

    Man, am I impressed by how many you can remember.

  2. Chris Barrus says:

    Actually, I still had the original file with all of the instructions.

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