Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Escape From "The Family".




A hot topic in the Auz media at the moment centers on a cult called “The Family” led by a messianic madwoman, Anned Hamilton-Byrne: a book has been published by Chris Johnson and Rosie Jones and a documentary film by Rosie Jones is doing the rounds in the cinemas, and some in Auz are agog over the horror of it all. It’s a peculiarly Melbourne story, the city I grew up in, coming from the late ‘Sixties and early ‘Seventies, a cult which nearly mind-fucked me, except I had the fortitude to escape.

I’ve told this story a few times in this Blog, especially in “The Siren Song of Pan” but reading about it again in the media has made me relive it and I feel to get my anxiety off my chest by retelling it. When I spoke of the experience to an art gallery full of people who’d come to a show of mine in 2012 I confessed that I’d gone through four psychedelic sessions with the cult and some cynic mentioned to a friend later, “If it was that bad why didn’t he run away after the first session?” The reason was it involved "trust", but I’m getting ahead of myself in this tale of psycho-mendacity.

Sydney is a particularly bitchy city, little mercy is shown to any of the downtrodden, a hang-over from convict-settlement days I imagine. (Melbourne, like all modern cities, is probably just as class-conscious cruel, but Sydney is older, bigger and the cold superficiality of "mansion by the harbor living" more marked.) Last year, in the middle of the “Gay Mardi Gras”, when I mentioned to a dickhead I’d met forty years previously that I had long been “Out there” he replied, “No, you were never out there!” I couldn’t believe my ears and said, “What?” and he repeated it, “You were never out there!” I wanted to slap his face but I was in the middle of the gay parade and it would’ve been inappropriate. 

This response is typical of what I’ve had to suffer over the years. A life of torture, unable to hold down a job or even rent a room, toughing it out with the heterosexual anarchist scene, the rock’n’roll mosh-pits, the skinhead-gang attacks, the rednecks spitting in my face, all because I couldn’t hide my gayness even if I wanted to, (and I did let everyone know, "I'm gay, so what?) and then that cock told me I was never “out.”

Hamilton-Byrne Playing the Harp.
If you, phantom reader, have read any of my life-stories in this Blog, you’ll know that these writings come from the heart. And there, at that trendy art gallery where everybody gasped when I related how the psychedelic aspect of my art was due to my experience of just barely escaping the clutches of Anne Hamilton-Byrne and her “Family”, I was being questioned for truthfulness, as if I was just mentioning it to gain some notoriety, my bi-polar fuck-up since then be damned. So I’ll start from the beginning.

In 1969 I was 19 and suffering terribly from angst at being gay in a het-supremacist world, where I was told I was a twisted monster who deserved suicide at best. Even my family were ashamed and, to a degree, disowned me. I was a student nurse at a creepy Victorian hospital and an older nurse, Keith, befriended me, ever so solicitous and avuncular. For more than a year he was my best friend who could talk yoga, philosophy and mysticism, revealing “other” world paradigms different to the banality of “normal” family suburbia that stifled me and made me feel worthless. I trusted this guy and never for a moment guessed he was a member of a cult that sent him out into the world looking for likely recruits.

Eventually I opened up to him and confessed I was gay and he convinced me it was a mental illness that needed psychiatric treatment. He then confided that he had once been gay but now was cured, happily married with a child. And it was all because of psychedelic-aversion therapy that he’d received in a private hospital in the inner-city suburb of Kew. The attributes that made me highly worthy of recruitment was not just my psychic vulnerability but my keen intelligence and bright blue eyes, for the whole set-up was a fascistic Aryan white-supremacist pseudo-religion, (they also went by the name of "The Great White Brotherhood.")  

The cult leader was a wise shaman type, like a curandera from old Mexico, guiding patients through healing rituals using psylocibin mushrooms, or that's what Hamilton-Byrne, the high priestess, professed. In reality she was more like the CIA using the drug in mind-control programs, only her program was to eventually breed me with one of her cult-members and then snatch the child.


To completely win over my trust forty-year old Keith suggested I needed some time in a retreat in the Dandenongs and he duly delivered me there after sunset to contemplate my sorry existence while he drove off to do night-duty, or so he said. I shat myself in this dark, foreboding shack, awake all night in terror that he would show up and try to seduce me as I absolutely was not attracted to him. But he left me alone, coming to get me after dawn, proving that he was not after my flesh, all of it probably a well-worked out ruse for I have recently learned that “The Family” owned all the houses on that Ferny Creek road in the Dandenong Ranges.

I soon reported to the private hospital in Kew, “Newhaven”, a gingerbread Gothic mansion like something out of Hansel and Gretel. I stepped inside the madhouse with some trepidation yet wondered if I would be privileged enough to receive psylocybin therapy and thus  find release from my existential burden and maybe get some rays of mystic sunshine blasted into my dark soul as well. The shrink who interviewed me, Dr. John Mackay, was ever so concerned and paternalistic and once again I trusted him, he was a doctor, he’d supposedly taken the Hypocratic oath, I’d been led to trust doctors by Society, and he earnestly said he could help me. I was reading “Huckleberry Finn” in the waiting room and he impressed me with the psycho-babble fact that Mark Twain had been born and died when Haley’s Comet passed over the earth, seventy years apart.

Newhaven Clinic, Kew
The good doctor had fine wrinkled skin, like ancient parchment, and I thought it meant he was from a UFO or Atlantis, he came across as “other-worldly”, actually it probably meant he didn’t drink enough water. He commiserated with my existential angst and told me I needed "psychic clearing", cleaning out all the detritus of bad karma from many incarnations and replacing it with a spiritual wholesomeness, (euphemistic crap for replacing my rational critique with the cult's mumbo jumbo.)

 He then booked me into the clinic for the psychedelic therapy, apparently the hospital had a connection with Sandoz laboratories in Switzerland, and ten sessions over a period of three months should do the trick, make me an upright citizen, all paid for by my Health Insurance.

I was quite excited at the prospect as I’d heard all about LSD from the Beatles, Ken Kesey, Timothy Leary and Woodstock and desired the life-changing enlightenment it heralded. At no time was “The Family” or Anne Hamilton-Byrne mentioned but it is a known fact that the clinic was used as a recruiting ground for the cult, and innocent, gullible, unsuspecting me was ripe for the grand mind-fuck, or so they arrogantly believed.


I was put into a small room with wire-meshed windows, in my pajamas, and Dr. Mackay shot me up with the drug and, being intra-muscular, it took upwards of an hour to come on. Then I had the greatest bummer of all trips, blood filled the room, dead bodies hung from the walls, I retched and my body contorted and the sweet Doctor suggested I was reliving being sexually molested when I was a child.

A sense of impending doom overwhelmed me, that my separate identity was about to be destroyed, to be replaced by some satanic, H.P. Lovecraftian monster welling up from my Unconscious, and I fought it off. I fought off all the harpies, ghouls, vampires, succubi, ghosts and witches from every horror movie imaginable, all night till the blessed dawn brought fresh sunlight through the caged window and I came down.


For the next three sessions I went through the same shocking experiences but I continued to fight off the impending annihilation of my sense of self until dawn brought me release from the nightmares. I heard screams coming from other rooms and surmised others were also undergoing similar ordeals but I never saw anybody else, I was always whisked in and out of the clinic as if it were some secret club for my benefit alone. Into my room THEY brought kind Keith, the good Doctor and various nurses, (who I’ve now discovered many were not nurses but cult members called “aunties”) to encourage me to let go, give in, succumb to karmic cleansing and be reborn to realize my immortal soul in the light of a new world order. Yet I resisted and came out of it just plain rebellious, chip on the shoulder, punk intransigent me.

Hamilton-Byrne with Eyes that " Looked Through You."
On the fourth session I again didn’t give up my soul to the required degree THEY desired, in fact I was showing no “improvement at all” and was starting to control “the trip”, even enjoying the trippiness of the kaleidoscopic brain-waves. So the Doctor gave me a booster shot and brought in the biggest gun of them all, Anne Hamilton-Byrne herself. She had on a false white nurse's uniform to fool me, her hair-do in a kind of B52s bouffant, somewhat like a Wagnerian Valkyrie, (it was a wig, she wore all manner of styles due to the fact that she was half bald and egregiously vain.)
She sat by my bed and tried to mesmerize me with admonishments to vomit it all up, all the times I’d been raped, tortured, murdered, and in turn all the murders I'd committed, the blood-letting, the disembowling, in all my past lives, and I retched for her benefit, my body twisted and misshapen,  but I still didn’t become the pliable fool. Finally she left me to be molded into her clay Golem another day and I found myself flying up past the levels of Hell, up into many heavens, back through the history of human evolution, to a primordial time when as human-animals still in tune with nature we danced in the garden to the ecstatic song of Pan.


 As dawn broke I could hear again screaming coming from nearby and discovering my door had been left unlocked I ventured out into the corridor. There I bumped into another young man, his hair chopped in a basin-cut, much like the children in the sci-fi movie “Village of the Damned”. We quickly discussed our predicament, he told me he was labelled as a trouble-making teenager and was supposed to be getting "straightened out" but the whole set-up was weird, mystic hoodoo voodoo involving yoga, UFOs, Buddhism, Atlantis and all run by a woman who considered herself Jesus Christ come again.


I was shocked but knew it rang true as all the drugs and psycho-babble was weird in the extreme. An “Auntie” saw us whispering together and yelled for us to go back to our rooms but when she disappeared I saw my chance to escape. I quickly got dressed and snuck out the back-door, across the garden, and climbed the back fence, never to go back there. Fuck having ten sessions of that nonsense, I'd be a blubbering mess at the end of it, open to any suggestion and direction, like a trained zombie.

Over the years I’ve discovered the truth of the place, the villainous Anne and her amoral culprits that tried to ensnare me, my supposed best friend Keith, (who eventually fled to England, probably to return to a gay lifestyle), the use of drugs to brainwash, and the involvement of high society in supporting, funding, covering up the cult, such as the eminent physicist Dr. Raynor Johnson, Master of Queens College, Melbourne University and Reg Ansett, owner of Ansett airline and TV 10 fame, even judges and politicians were in on it. It truly is a scandal, and the fact that intelligent, powerful people could fall for such madness is mind-numbing.

Assange with Children of the Family.
Hamilton-Byrne collected kids whose origin she couldn’t explain, (probably one of them was Keith’s) and she kept them in submission on a farm in the bush, beating and starving them, bleaching their hair white-blond like Aryan kids from a Nazi “Village of the Damned”. As well as her adult acolytes she fed the older kids copious amounts of hallucinogens, possibly flipping them out forever. I heard an urban myth that has not been verified in this latest media scandal because maybe it’s just shocking Gothic gossip, that she got blood transfusions from them frequently to keep herself looking young, and indeed she did keep her Aryan good-looks into old age. Even the notorious Julian Assange was one of those blond captive kids; no wonder he went mad and is trying to run the world from his Ecuadorean embassy refuge.

Now the new-messiah is in her late nineties and has dementia, dying by inches in a nursing home. She had no compunction to destroy lives in her maniacal need for power, adoration and wealth: sadly one of her “children” who was instrumental in exposing her, Sarah Moore, died young, aged 46, from mental distress and possible suicide. 

Did “The Family” and their drug-induced mind-meltdown ruin my life? I’ve certainly been dysfunctional ever since, with bi-polar swings, committing stupid, compulsive stunts and inappropriate Tourette's-like expletives yelled at the wrong time. It set me on the road as a transient bum and bad-arse anarchist, I went on to wander India for 4 years after the Newhaven experience, taking acid on the beaches of Goa from ’72 onward to try to get on top of the bummers, free myself from the Christian duality of Heavenly Father and Hellfire Satan, to dance ecstatic and abandoned, control my life’s path and fuck off any stand-over merchant or lynch-mob that accosted me.

Anne with one of her children.
And thus I was made strong, I don’t take shit; when dickheads try to put me down, wipe me off, push me over I stand up to them, I fight back, I’m a warrior. I can't be controlled, cheated, conned, cowed, except when I pretend to be, to achieve my own agenda. Yet I still trust my friends as that's what friends are for and I rarely see the betrayal coming as I never did grow up and still retain my Hansel and Gretel naivitie. Yeah, bi-polar, a running contradiction. 

For 4 years in India of the '70s I met every Big Baba going, Tatwalla Baba, Maste Ram Baba,  Prabhupad of Hari Krishna fame, Rajneesh (Osho), Muktananda, Satchitananda of Woodstock fame, even the magician Satya Sai Baba, but I resisted being overly-impressed by any of them, never joining the club and dressing in orange like a swami, nor giving up my gayness. 

When I crash-landed in Sydney I was a ‘78er, taking on the cops as we marched up Oxford Street and onto Kings Cross to start the famous LGBQIT Mardi Gras parade that comes up again every March. I lived in Pyrmont Squats for 12 years and fought off innumerable dark forces. I’ve taken on corrupt cops, cruel screws, power-mongering pollies and jaundiced junkies. I’ve survived the ghetto of Northcott Housing Estate for 28 years where schizos and ICE addicts run amok. And I've returned to India for the last twenty years and walked every jungle path and city back-alley and surfed it like a swashbuckling pirate.

      If Anne Hamilton-Byrne and her “Family” couldn’t diminish me, devour me, detain me, NOTHING could. Her cult’s motto was “Unseen, Unheard, Unknown.” That’s not my bullshit. Though I must admit, old age is now causing me to feel somewhat wobbly, for people continue to be cruel, as my next few stories will attest. I’ve got a bad reputation across this back-stabbing, pushy, shit-heap climbing city, for opening my mouth and giving dicks my reality checks, all because I don’t like people wiping their feet on me like I’m a door mat, even though I do say “Welcome”.






If you enjoyed this story please go to the WEB address above and consider buying my book of tales about growing up anarcho-queer, rock and roll punter and mystic adventurer in Australia and India of the 1950s, ‘60s and ‘70s.