By Matt Coker
By R. Scott Moxley
By Charles Lam
By Nick Schou
By Gustavo Arellano
By Gustavo Arellano
By Steve Lowery
By R. Scott Moxley
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One of the surfers Hynson got to know in Hawaii was Chuck Mundell, a high-school dropout from Huntington Beach. Mundell admired Hynson and wanted him to meet a good friend of his named John Griggs, who was living with a bunch of friends in a stone building in Orange County’s Modjeska Canyon. Griggs and his friends, most of whom were former boozers, brawlers and heroin addicts from Anaheim, had begun experimenting with a new drug that Griggs had stolen at gunpoint from a Hollywood film producer: lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD). Until October 1966, acid was legal in California, and Griggs and his group, who called themselves the Brotherhood of Eternal Love, believed that just as it had cured them of their addictions and violent behavior, it could also transform American society into a glorious utopia. They were heavily influenced by Harvard professor Timothy Leary, he of the famous exhortation “Turn on, tune in, drop out”—and who would later describe Griggs as the “holiest person who has ever lived in this country.”
Before Griggs invited Leary to join his group, which in early 1967 moved south to Laguna Canyon, to a neighborhood Griggs would christen “Dodge City” because of the constant skirmishes with the local forces of law and order, Hynson was Griggs’ most famous disciple. “Griggs had gold flashing out of his eyes and tongue, these words; he was just a magical little guy,” Hynson says. Accompanied by Merryweather, Hynson dropped his first acid with Griggs and several other Brotherhood members at Black’s Beach near La Jolla.
The experience brought him back to the hospital room where he’d nearly died as a child. It took Hynson a few trips to get beyond that near-death experience, but when that happened, he felt reborn with a new sense of spiritual purpose. “Those guys turned me on,” he says. “Things were happening. I remember Johnny and I walking down Haight-Ashbury [in San Francisco], and he got some acid from somebody, and the whole street was loaded with people doing their own hippie thing. It was really going on.”
Griggs had a plan: open a psychedelic spiritual and cultural center in Laguna Beach that would turn the town into a Southern California version of Haight-Ashbury. To finance the construction of Mystic Arts World, the store that would serve as that center, Griggs relied on cash from the Brotherhood’s burgeoning marijuana-smuggling operation.
“One day, I walked into this warehouse with Johnny and saw 50 tons of pot,” Hynson says. “I wasn’t supposed to see it, but I was there. I remember thinking, ‘It’s not going to get any better than this, and it’s not going to get any worse.’”
But Hynson had another idea for how Griggs could raise money: Why not use surfboards to smuggle hash from the Middle East or India? After all, nobody knew anything about surfing in India, so customs wouldn’t know if, for example, a surfboard weighed 20 or 30 pounds more than it should. Hynson suggested the idea to Griggs’ friend Dave Hall, who promptly borrowed a board and set off for Nepal, returning a few weeks later with the board—and the best hash anyone in Laguna Beach had ever smoked.
On his next trip, Hall invited Hynson to come along, which is how Hynson found himself struggling to fill three surfboards with hash oil late one night in New Delhi. The trip was a success, and the cash raised helped make Griggs’ dream a reality. “I wasn’t going to sell it or anything,” Hynson says. “I just gave it to those guys, and it bankrolled Mystic Arts. It was an honor, you know.”
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During the next several years, the Brotherhood of Eternal Love established itself as both America’s top hashish-smuggling ring—with up to a dozen hash-stuffed Volkswagen buses and Land Rovers being shipped back from Afghanistan at any given moment—and the country’s top LSD-distribution ring. Leary moved to Laguna Beach and later accompanied Griggs to a mountain commune in Idyllwild, where Griggs died of an overdose of crystallized psilocybin in August 1969. Hynson stayed away from Dodge City as much as possible because Leary and the Brotherhood attracted too much heat.
He let his guard down once, however, when he and Merryweather sped through Laguna Canyon smoking a joint. A cop pulled them over, smelled the weed and arrested them both. At the station, the officer rifled through Merryweather’s belongings. “In my purse, I had a little Buddha, a prayer book and beads, some patchouli oil and incense, and a Murine bottle full of LSD,” Merryweather recalls. “The cop ingested it through his fingers and never got around to booking us.” In the morning, another officer arrived at the station, slack-jawed at the sight of his colleague, who reeked of patchouli, sitting with glazed eyes in front of a Buddha. “They let us the hell out of there right away,” Hynson says.