John Hubner and Lindsey Gruson
Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Publishers
San Diego - New York - London

Authors' Note on Methodology

This book is based on hundreds of hours of taped interviews with present and former devotees, hundreds of newspaper stories and magazine articles, and thousands of pages of trial transcripts. For two years, the authors have had unprecedented access to the movement's internal documents and have benefited from the close cooperation of federal, state, and local law-enforcement officials.

Most of the scenes depicted in this book are taken directly from the recollections of eyewitnesses and participants as recounted in interviews and trial transcripts. In addition, while conducting interviews and going through documents, the authors strove to discover what players in the drama were thinking and feeling. Dialogue, thoughts, and feelings have been re-created based on this research in an attempt to establish the essence of what occurred. In a few instances, the authors have created dramatizations based on their analysis of the participants' personalities and on subsequent events. These instances are pointed out in the Notes.

Of the scores of people the reader will encounter in this book, five are portrayed with pseudonyms to protect their privacy, and two are composite characters. These are also pointed out in the Notes.

In general, the reader is encouraged to consult the supplementary information and documentation offered in the back of the book.

On a crisp fall day in 1965, as America reeled from riots in Watts and Selma and students marched on Washington to pro-test the bombing of North Vietnam, a 70-year-old retired Indian pharmaceutcal executive stepped off a tramp steamer in the Port of New York. He had $7 in his pocket, the phone number of a friend, and a few cooking utensils. By the time he died twelve years later, Swami Prabhupada and his followers had built an empire on America's disaffected youth, winning over the Beatles, amassing a fortune, and spreading Krishna's word in 200 golden temples worldwide.
The Hare Krishnas became a fixture in America's urban landscape. With shaved heads, saffron robes, and beads, they took to the streets—chanting, rat-tling cymbals, begging, and engaging a generation.
But the story has other endings. As the old swami lay on his deathbed, the seeds were sown that would destroy his legacy. As his followers clamored to succeed him, the movement splintered, grew venal and belligerent. His death signaled the horrors to follow.
One guru used cult funds to record himself on rock and roll albums and acquire an arsenal of firearms. Another claimed to converse with Krishna himself while tripping on LSD. Other devotees abused women and sexually molested the young. The most ambitious and cruellest of them all, Swami Bhakti-pada Kirtanananda, erected America's Taj Mahal, the lavish Palace of Gold in West Virginia, which became headquarters for a drug ring and "enforcers" who punished and, in some cases, even murdered disloyal devotees.
There was the murder of Chuck St. Denis, a devotee who wanted to start a
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floral business with his wife's inheritance —instead of giving the money to the temple. Next came the murder of disillusioned devotee Steve Bryant, who had launched a one-man holy war to prove his conviction that the movement had become a global criminal enterprise. They were "monkeys on a stick," grue-some warnings to others who might dream of defection.
Like Helter Skelter, this book is infused with horror and suspense and informed by exhaustive research. Monkey on a Stick is a spine-chilling look at the institutionalization of evil in the name of a god. Investigative journalists John Hubner and Lindsey Gruson masterfully blend the best traditions of thriller, expose, and rich generational history. From first page to last, this is an electrifying story of faith and betrayal, money and power, violence and obsession, murder and madness.

John Hubner is a reporter for the San Jose Mercury News. Lindsey Gruson is a
reporter for the New York Times. They have covered the Hare Krishna movement separately for their respective newspapers and jointly for Rolling Stone.

Jacket photo courtesy Jay Freis/THE IMAGE BANK West

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Not since Helter Skelter or In Cold Blood has there
been such a terrifying story about multiple horrors

"Shoot him!"
Drescher screamed at Reid. "Shoot him!"

St. Denis was hit twelve times. He crumpled and went down. But then, almost immediately, as Reid and Drescher watched in amazement, he struggled back onto his feet and half staggered, half ran back down the path toward the Blazer.
Drescher dropped his gun, ran after St. Denis, and dove into him, hitting him behind the knees. The big man went down. Drescher rolled him over and climbed onto his heaving chest.
"Get a knife!" Drescher yelled at Reid.
Reid felt like he was going to vomit. For an instant he thought about running away, but he was afraid if he did, Drescher would come after him and kill him, too. He ran into the cabin and came out with a kitchen knife.
"Chant!" Drescher was screaming. "Start chanting!"
Drescher thought he was doing St. Denis one last favor. Krishna had preached, "Those who remember me at the time of death will come to me. Do not doubt this." By forcing St. Denis to chant, Drescher thought he was guaranteeing him a more spiritual life in his next incarnation.
Drescher grabbed the knife and stabbed St. Denis. Again and again. Hard and deep. Finally, the blade hit a rib and snapped.
St. Denis fought on, shrieking in agony, coughing blood, and gasping for breath. Reid found a hammer and Drescher hit him with that, punching a one-inch hole in his skull. St. Denis went limp.
Drescher and Reid dragged St. Denis down the logging road to the dammed-up stream. They dumped the body on the swampy ground. Reid picked up one end of a plastic sheet, about to wrap St. Denis's head in it, when the big man opened his eyes.
"Don't do that, you'll smother me," he said.
Reid screamed—a long, piercing scream of pure terror.

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