Eddie Padilla's Escape From Lurigancho

The onetime OC man is the only man still alive who escaped from Peru's most notorious prison

The group began with communal acid-dropping sessions at Griggs' house in Modjeska Canyon, but by 1967, it had moved to Laguna Beach; its new headquarters was Mystic Arts World, a head shop, art gallery and retail boutique on Pacific Coast Highway. Inside the store, Padilla managed a small bead shop; other members sold everything from incense and candles to esoteric literature and copies of The Tibetan Book of the Dead, Paramahansa Yogananda's Autobiography of a Yogi, and Leary and Ralph Metzner's The Psychedelic Experience.

Every weekend, groups would head off to local beaches, hot springs and mountains to drop acid. Meanwhile, trips to Mexico to haul back blankets, ponchos and other indigenous handicrafts doubled as pot-smuggling ventures. Padilla's first stint as a smuggler was also almost his last. He and a trio of Brotherhood members took a truck to Mexico and camped out on the beach near Mazatlán. While one of their friends traveled to Oaxaca to purchase some native crafts, Padilla and two of his partners purchased 200 kilos of weed and waited on the beach for the friend to return.

The cops arrived first and lengthily questioned the Americans, but they failed to discover the pot that Padilla had hastily buried in the sand. Once his friend returned from Oaxaca—and before the Mexicans were the wiser—Padilla stashed the marijuana in the truck's side panels; the group drove across the border without a hitch. "People started bringing loads in from all over the place," Padilla says, "smuggling like crazy and getting really sophisticated at it, too."

Padilla with a coke-filled guitar, circa early 1970s
Courtesy Lorey James
Padilla with a coke-filled guitar, circa early 1970s
The cover of Padilla’s new book
Courtesy Lorey James
The cover of Padilla’s new book

Soon, Padilla and his friends had become such reliable marketers of marijuana that they had their own in-house attorney: George Chula, the Saul Goodman of his day, whose investigator, Michael Marvich, an ex-con, would often alert Padilla or another Brotherhood member when and where to pick up a car full of pot that had just arrived from Mexico. But Padilla was ambitious. In 1967, he and a brother filled every available panel of a double-cab Volkswagen bus with 500 pounds of Mexican weed and proceeded to drive it to San Francisco, where they hoped to unload enough of it to keep the city's Summer of Love going through winter.

Instead, the cops almost immediately busted Padilla. An FBI agent arrived at the jail to interrogate him.

"They knew about the shop, the Brotherhood, everything about me," Padilla says. "They wanted me to rat on the Mexicans. I said, 'Give me one month. Let me out of jail, and I'll call you in a month and try to set something up for you.'" The agent didn't find that funny. Thanks to the Brotherhood's attorney, Padilla quickly made bail. He bounced back and forth to court for the next two years, as did many of his friends, before realizing that if he remained in California, he'd be headed to prison for a longer time than he could afford to spare.

Meanwhile, time was running out for the Brotherhood. While single members of the group took over a neighborhood they called "Dodge City" on Woodland Drive in Laguna Beach, Leary had joined many married members of the Brotherhood at a ranch in Idyllwild, in the mountains above Palm Springs, where he lived in a Native American teepee and hatched a campaign to run for governor of California on a platform to legalize marijuana, outlaw football and return the state to a pre-capitalist barter economy. But a series of mishaps drove the Brotherhood from its commune. First, a member who'd just returned from Afghanistan with a surfboard full of hash was busted driving up to the ranch. The 17-year-old girlfriend of another Brotherhood member drowned in a swimming hole while tripping on acid, leading to Leary's arrest for criminal negligence in the incident. Griggs' untimely death in August 1969 from what appears to be the only known case of overdosing on synthetic psilocybin sealed the group's fractious fate, with members evading police in Mexico, Central and South America, and Maui.

Maui was a natural choice for Padilla, who'd always hoped that the Brotherhood's illicit smuggling activities could somehow finance the purchase of a tropical island where the group could pursue the hippie ideal of dropping out of society and living in harmony with nature. At the time, the island had yet to be overrun with tourism, and the Brotherhood easily blended in with the thousands of hippies who arrived each year and formed a natural customer base for the group's drug enterprise.

As I recounted in my 2010 book, Orange Sunshine: The Brotherhood of Eternal Love and Its Quest to Spread Peace, Love and Acid to the World, Padilla arrived on the island in May 1970 by the most arduous route imaginable. Along with a handful of friends, almost none of whom had any sailing experience, he sailed to Maui on the Aafje, a 70-foot yacht the Brotherhood had loaded with a ton of high-quality Mexican marijuana it dubbed "Lightning Bolt," the clones of which, when planted on Maui, became the legendary "Maui Wowie" strain. Because the boat had no functioning navigational equipment, the Aafje strayed off course by hundreds of miles, surviving several tropical storms in the process; the trip was saved when a sympathetic Norwegian ship captain gave them fuel and food to complete their voyage.

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