A graduation is something to be proud of, a milestone, and the sometimes very expensive piece of paper you get in return for graduating, while clearly not the one-way ticket to paid employment that everyone told you it would be, is at least a tangible reminder of all that effort you put in and the money you spent. Rarely, however, does the signifying document itself hold any actual monetary value, unless of course your diploma stands as testament to your Acid Test graduation. Something to be proud of, indeed!
In 2012, a rare diploma granted to “Mountain Girl” went up for auction in San Francisco and ultimately took in $24,255. The diploma was of interest to collectors for two reasons. For one thing Mountain Girl, born Carolyn Adams, was a one-time Merry Prankster and significant other to One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest author Ken Kesey. She had a daughter with Kesey and later married Jerry Garcia with whom she had two more girls. The diplomas, illustrated by fellow Merry Prankster and cartoonist Paul Foster were also a rarity, having been given out to only a handful of people by beat hero Neal Cassady himself at what turned out to be an unintentionally small gathering of heads. According to the auction house that sold the artifact, they have almost never shown up for sale for obvious reasons.
Mountain Girl and Jerry Garcia
Anybody familiar with Tom Wolfe’s book The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test (or basically anybody who knows anything at all about the history of United States counterculture) knows that the Acid Tests were wild LSD-fueled parties thrown at Ken Kesey’s LaHonda ranch in the mid 60’s and I’m not going to get into any more description here. If you don’t already know about the whole trippy phenomena, use whatever device you’re currently on and look it up.
The graduation ceremony was originally scheduled to be held on Halloween night, 1966 at Bill Graham’s Winterland in San Francisco with the Grateful Dead headlining, but the event was canceled when Graham caught wind of Kesey’s supposed plan to covertly dose every single person who showed up, either through the water supply or by coating all the surfaces in the building with LSD. The Dead took another gig at California Hall, which trumped the actual Acid Test Graduation that ended up taking place in a San Francisco warehouse with no running water. Mountain Girl was at the California Hall gig with the Dead and crew when the diplomas were handed out and she unceremoniously received hers after the fact.
Here it is in all its glory. Click on the image to see it close up.
Mountain Girl’s Acid Test Diploma
Below, you’ll find footage of the Acid Test Graduation Ceremony from 1966. You can see the diplomas being handed out by Neal Cassady towards the beginning.