Monday, November 17, 2008

6. "Krishna Venta and the Fountain of the World" by James Harvey - Part 2

The Borderline magazine arrived in just a matter of days, and I tore into its contents one day at lunch, and chuckled often as I read the article that went like this:

"Krishna Venta and the Fountain of the World"
By James Harvey
© 1966 – Borderline Magazine

In Southern California many strange and unusual people come and go, but none matched the exit of a robed and bearded self styled Messiah known as Krishna Venta who, on the night of December 10, 1958, went to pieces ... literally. This spectacular leave taking was brought about by an arm,-load of dynamite set off in a sturdy stone building that served as headquarters for a religious cult called the Fountain of the World. By the time volunteer firemen of Ventura County arrived at Box Canyon, where the cult was located, they found the stone building blown to dust and nine members of the group scattered in tiny chunks al l over the area. Among them was the cult's head, Krishna Venta.

Wandering around the scene of the disaster were the hundred or so survivors of the Fountain of the World. All of them were dressed in different colored robes. The women wore kerchiefs around their heads while the men wore their hair in long braids and also sported long beards. None of them wanted to answer the questions the police put to them. They all seemed to be in shock. After all, Krishna Venta had promised he would never die and said he had already lived for 244,000 years.

The F.B.I. entered the case claiming not only that could Krishna Venta die but that he had missed his true age by some 243,953 years. The recently departed Messiah had actually been born as Francis Pencovic in San Francisco no further back than 1911. He also had a police record.

Francis Pencovic went under another alias besides Krishna Venta: Frank Jensen. Under his true name Pencovic was arrested first in 1941 when he sent a threatening letter to President Roosevelt. At the time Pencovic explained that his letter had been misunderstood. All he wanted to do was to simply show the President how to run the country. The F.B.I. released him as a harmless crank.

Under the name of Frank Jensen, the Messiah really cut loose with an assortment of crimes that included burglary, larceny and violation of the Mann Act. At one time he spent several months in a state hospital for mental treatment.

When the police brought this dossier to the members of the cult none of them seemed surprised by it. The Messiah had already briefed them on that part of his past. According to him, he arrived in the United States from Meta "Verde Valley, in the shadow of Mount Everest, via teleportation on March 29, 1932. Since he needed to have some kind of identification he took on the name of Francis Pencovic. At the same time, he gave the name of Frank Jensen to the man whose identity he assumed. Since the original Pencovic wasn't any prize package it was natural that he would go on getting into trouble under a different name.

The police were stunned to find that the members of the cult accepted this line of reasoning.

Frank Pencovic, at the age of eight, was sent to live with his relations after both of his parents died. 'He hung around with a tough gang of kids in San Francisco's Embarcadero section. After getting into petty troubles with the law, he started drifting about the country when he was sixteen.

After running the gamut of such occupations as dish washer, bus boy and laborer, he found he had a knack for salesmanship. His favorite job was selling Bibles from door-to-door. The ladies especially were attracted to his magnetic voice and long eyelashes. At the same time Pencovic started to delve into books on religion and the occult. The story of Joe Smith, the man who founded Mormonism, attracted him the most. Here was someone like himself, a fellow with no education yet a great desire to be of some importance. The more he read Smith's life, the more fascinated he became. The seeds of a future Messiah were sown.

Like so many others who felt they had a mission in life, Frank Pencovic drifted to Los Angeles, where he answered an open casting ad for the annual nativity play at the Pilgrimage Bowl. To assure himself that he would get the part, he let his beard and hair grow long in proper Biblical fashion. But he did forget one thing that was more important in getting the part: an Actor's Equity membership card. When his landlady heard he had been rejected for this lack, she evicted him. She had been willing to tolerate Pencovic's long hair and beard if they were required for an acting part but she now looked upon him as an undesirable.

Pencovic became fond of his beard and hair. He found that he enjoyed the stares he got in the street. At last he was getting some attention and recognition. His long starved ego had its first feast.

But Pencovic had to have a shave and a haircut before any company would hire him even for menial jobs. After working as a soda jerk, he married. His new position as husband required him to get a better job than splitting bananas and scooping ice cream. Yet Pencovic could never find a job that had more status and money. He began to long for the old days when he wandered around the streets being stared at. Then he decided that maybe he could somehow make his beard-wearing pay. He rented a broken-down house, let his hair grow and invented a religion. Actually his "religion" was nothing more than bits and pieces he picked out of occult books with a good dash of yoga to liven things up.

Pencovic wasn't exactly deluged by converts. A few women did show up, but they were more interested in the new religious leader than in the new religion. Although Pencovic didn't mind this attention, his wife did. She left him.

Pencovic drifted to Miami, became involved in a Mann Act violation and promptly drifted out. In 1942 the law put the arm on him for spreading rubber checks and he was put on a road camp. Perhaps it was the sun and perhaps it was the hard work that Pencovic was allergic to but he got it into his head that he was really Christ and that the road camp was really his Crucifixion. He was sent to the state hospital and was released after several months.

Still impressed with Mormonism and Joe Smith, Pencovic went to Salt Lake City, the Mormon capitol. He spent three years there working as a timekeeper. He met and married a girl named Ruth. By this time his first wife had divorced him for nonsupport.

After Pencovic became a father by his new wife, he realized he had to find a way to make money. He thought of going into the Messiah business again. Remembering his previous failure at it, Pencovic began to make a study of all religions to base his new faith on. He especially favored Hinduism. The Ten Commandments of Christianity were all right in themselves, but too negative for him. "Thou shah not" only told people what not to do. So Pencovic thought up an 11th commandment that would lay the foundation of his new religion. It went: "Be Positive, Creative and Constructive' in all you think, all you say, and all you do."

In 1947 Pencovic, for the first time calling himself Krishna Venta, brought his family to Denver, where he rented a store and grew long hair again. This time he added a robe to his ensemble, and established the Fountain of the World cult.

Disciples began to gather around him and he started to give them new names. He called a school teacher Nekona and a businessman Asaiah. Quite a few people in Denver found the new Messiah something of a spellbinder. He had to be to convince intelligent adults he'd come to earth 244,000 years ago on a rocketship from a planet called Neophrates. Anyone who didn't believe him was advised to scrounge around Mount Everest, where the rocketship still sat.

Before long Pencovic thought he was able enough to take on Southern California again. As soon as he moved his family to Los Angeles he talked a wealthy disciple into underwriting the expense to set up the colony at Box Canyon.

Krishna Venta and his Fountain of the Worlders set up the first few shelters in the area. The local people were aghast at the strange collection of cultists, their bare feet and robes. They had had trouble with cultists once before and didn't want history to repeat itself. In 1929 a group known as the Divine Order of the Royal Arm of the Great Eleven had brought national attention to the community after they baked one of their wayward followers to death.

The community tried to have this new cult evicted but Krishna Venta fought it and won.

A tide seemed to have turned in the Messiah's life.

The Fountain of the World began to grow despite the local opposition. The members shared in the work and wore robes of different colors to identify their positions. Brown signified administration, gray was for responsibility, lavender for music, green for student, blue for medicine and, for mothers, pink. Krishna Venta wore the only yellow robe. This was the color of the Light of Wisdom.

It was easy enough to join the cult. All one had to do was enter as a probationer for three months by signing a Declaration of Intention. At the end of this time one could leave or continue. To stay, one had to sign a Membership Agreement and Declaration of Faith. And one had to hand over all his worldly possessions to be fully accepted. In no time at all Krishna Venta was riding around in a bright yellow Cadillac and smoking dollar cigars.

The Fountain of the World built steadily upwards. New buildings were added, including a dispensary. While the local people resented the bearded and yellow robed Krishna Venta and his showy car, they began to like the members of the cult, who often aided families in the area who became destitute. They became well known for their skills at forest fighting and they could always be relied upon to help put out a blaze. When a town in the area was flooded, the Fountain of the Worlders were everywhere helping all those who needed it.

While his cult was doing good deeds, Krishna Venta was living it up in a $280 a week suite in a famous hotel in London. If Krishna had been stared at on the streets of Los Angeles for wearing a beard, he really turned heads when he strode through the hotel lobby wearing not only his beard, but his flowing yellow robe, and trailing cigar smoke behind him. He had gone to England to lecture but the Britons just didn't warm up to him.

When he went to Sweden, he made even less of an impression. Some papers came out doubting
his sanity.

Krishna Venta then went to New York where, to assure that he would receive proper attention, he handed out dollar bills on the corner of 42nd Street and Broadway. He was soon mobbed and traffic was tied up. fie claimed that he handed out the dollar bills just to prove that money was the root of all evil. He pointed out that the New Yorkers all but tore him apart to get their buck.

Later that year Krishna Venta's public image was improved when a plane crashed near the colony. Thirty people died in the plane but there were fourteen survivors that were brought down the dangerous mountainside by Krishna and his followers.

In 1955 Krishna made the biggest single winning at Denver's Mile High Kennel Club. He managed to parlay two dollars into $2957. Even while he won this loot it didn't stop him from soliciting funds. The police bounced him out of town. Grabbing his money, Krishna went to Las Vegas where he lost all but $57 of his Denver winnings on the crap tables.

Meanwhile, back at the colony, sex was rearing its head. In one case a Negro man married a white woman, in another a member called Brother Earl, aged 26, married Sister Ethel, aged 69.

Krishna Venta soon was embroiled in personal problems. His first wife, seeing that her ex-husband was loaded, brought him to court to make him pay for the support of herself and their two children. Krishna claimed he was broke and wound up behind the bars of the city prison. Some how he managed to beat the rap and he was set out upon the world again. His next arrest was for speeding around hairpin turns. lie made the papers again with his claim that, since he couldn't die, he had no fear of accidents. Then, a year later, he was blown to bits by dynamite.

The bombing case was broken when police found a truck parked a half mile from the colony. In it was a tape recorder with two spools of used tape. When the police played them, they learned that two male members of the cult taped confessions. They were going to bring dynamite to the headquarters and try to force Krishna to admit bedding down with several women in the colony. If Krishna wasn't going to admit anything, the disciples were going to set the dynamite off and take him with them.

Previously both men had complained to the police about Krishna but the police wanted something more than their claims to begin a case. The men tried to scare Krishna into confessing. Obviously Krishna didn't scare easily.

Maybe he believed he was destined to be immortal.


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