It was all about peace, love, and going with the flow. Defying—or completely ditching—authority was the way to go, and the world revolved around finding yourself. The result? The birth of an entire culture.
The beginning of the hippie culture was monumental for all of those that had an interest in certain recreational activities. Besides the use of marijuana by stars such as Jimi Hendrix, other forms of drug exploration were starting to strongly take hold. Psychedelics were growing in popularity, and one family, in particular, was at the forefront of it all.
Billy Mellon Hitchcock—a young stockbroker and heir to one of the largest fortunes in the United States—decided to shell out half a million on a humongous estate in Millbrook, NY in 1963. It wasn't until his sister Peggy — a renowned party girl who introduced him to the fun of dropping acid—asked her brother for a favor. No one was ready for the whirlwind that would ensue.
The two men at the forefront of LSD-movement—Harvard researcher Timothy Leary and spiritual teacher Richard Alpert—decided to move into the mansion in Millbrook, for the rent of one dollar per year. Their intents were to "live quietly" and "write extensively," but they weren't the only ones to seek refuge in this psychedelic castle.
Leary and Alpert were joined by around thirty of their followers, and this was no ordinary group. Coveted beatnik poet Allen Ginsberg and jazz musician Charles Mingus were also in attendance, and the Millbrook estate was becoming more and more alive. There was no shortage of conversation, reflection, or tripping.
6. The Mansion's Inhabitants Were Always On A Trip
It wasn't long before Richard Alpert jumped out of a second story window and broke his leg while on psychedelics, but everyone embraced the experimentation to the fullest. It's no wonder LSD was the drug of choice: once you stepped inside the Millbrook mansion, you drifted off into an other-worldly state. You hardly needed acid to start tripping once you saw the new digs.
Just imagine a head shop on—well—acid. The mansion was decorated with ornate Persian rugs, psychedelic artwork, and tapestries. This place was literally dressed to make your trip that much more enjoyable, and everyone took full advantage.
"Everyone was always either just coming down from a trip or planning to take one. Some dropped acid for ten days straight, increasing the dosage and mixing in other drugs," as stated in the 1985 novel Acid Dreams. It is even rumored that the dogs and children dropped acid as well. Despite the endless shenanigans, the mission of those in the Millbrook mansion was still rooted in science.
Timothy Leary and Richard Alpert made it clear from the beginning that they were using LSD to find the "ultimate nature of reality." They published a manual on how to experience the best trip called The Psychedelic Experience in 1964, and they even held workshops. Even though the Millbrook mansion gathering started as a scientific adventure, it took on a life of its own.
The Millbrook mansion became known as a major party headquarters, and students from surrounding colleges began to flock to the grounds to see for themselves. The county began to get agitated about the endless partying and LSD use, and it was only a matter of time before this long trip came to an end.
On April 17, 1966, at two in the morning, the Millbrook estate was raided by 22 police officers with the assistance of a search warrant. The premises had been under surveillance for months — which is really no surprise — and police busted down the door in hopes of finding a gold mine of LSD.
Although officers expected to stumble upon mountains of acid, they left rather disappointed. They found 29 adults, 12 children, and a small amount of marijuana. No other drugs were found in the house, but there was still an uproar.
Timothy Leary — the brains behind the operation — ran down the stairs in just a T-shirt, screaming that his rights were being violated. He couldn't be convinced to put on pants, and he was arrested alongside three other people in the house. The acid trip at Millbrook was over, but it was just beginning outside of the mansion's walls.
14. LSD Was Beginning To Leak Into Mainstream Society
The Beatles weren't the only ones seeing Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds. The end of the antics at Millbrook birthed a widespread acceptance of acid, and this psychedelic mansion had a big impact on an entire culture. John Perry Barlow — who was a regular at Millbrook — went on to write songs for The Grateful Dead.
The 1960s were a time of infinite self-exploration, and if a decade's grand finale is Woodstock you know it was one for the books. There may not be hippies frolicking about at the Millbrook estate any longer, but these free spirits definitely paved the way for psychedelics...and that's pretty far out.