"Raid Hippie Cult, Seize $6M Dope" (Southworth Swede and the Psychedlicatessen)

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Dec 21, 2012, 8:47:49 AM12/21/12
[New York] Daily News, Friday, September 27, 1968, p. 5

Raid Hippie Cult, Seize $6M Dope

By Edward Kirkman and Henry Lee

The Church of the Mysterious Elation, a white brick storefront establishment for a hippie congregation, was raided by federal and city narcotics agents yesterday. It yielded a quantity of the flock's sacramental drugs--hashish, LSD, speed, mescaline capsules and assorted hallucinogens worth between $4 and $10 million retail.

The 24-year-old pastor, reputedly the son of a West Coast millionaire, was arrested with his long-gowned, long-haired barefoot wife, 24-year-old priestess of the mystic operation at 250 E. 10th St., and six worshippers, two of them girls.

All were found asleep in the nude in various rooms of the garishly decorated three-story building which is owned by the church.
A ninth suspect was picked up in the Psychedelicatessen down at the corner at 164 Avenue A. All were charged with possession of dangerous drugs, a felony.

Raided at 6 a.m.

The 6 a.m. raid was confuted by Detectives Jack Kelly, Bill Hughes and Reuben Bankhead, operating under Narcotics Squad Lt. Joseph Vone, and federal agents under regional director William J. Durkin of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs.

Reportedly the feds got the first tip on the operation and began a surveillance two months ago. The city cops worked with them, and took over jurisdiction, since the possession charge is a felony under state law but only a misdemeanour in the federal books.

A Various Haul

The raiders said they found 10 pounds of hashish, believed the largest haul of that drug in New York City; 11 pounds of marijuana; 4,500 tablets of LSD; 1,500 tablets of speed, 150 mescaline capsules and 150 tablets of various hallucinogens.

Additionally, they said, they confiscated drug paraphernalia, including books on the manufacture and processing of hallucinogens, scales and homemade long-stemmed pipes for smoking drugs, one of which was a converted doorknob. They also seized implements which, they said, are used to spray the body with a liquid drug, which is instantly absorbed through the pores.

The Church of the Mysterious Elation has a small select congregation of about 35 parishioners, both boys and girls, both sexes being long-haired and the men sporting beards too. The women usually go shoeless, though they occasionally consent to sandals.

The pastor, who was taken to the E. Fifth St. station house, identified himself as Southworth Swede, originally from Whittier, Calif., and as hooding a doctor of divinity degree from school in India. He is licensed to perform marriages in this state and has performed several in his psychedelic cathedral.

They Have a Little Girl

His wife, Susan, 5 foot 2, who has long black hair, was wearing a blue velvet, floor-length gown, open at the back, when she was taken to the police station. The couple have a daughter, Justine, 2.

The couple gave the church as their home address, as did the six worshippers, blonde Elsa Schmidt, 23; blonde Judy Mansfield, 19; Peter Jeffreys, 21; Steven Warnick, 18; Robert Hamburg, 21, and Charles Alderson, 27.

"Orders Passed On"

The last suspect, Neil J. Bixby, 22, who was picked up at the Psychedelicatessen, gave that location as his address. Police said the Psychedelicatessen was used to distribute narcotics, the users placing their orders there.

Then, the authorities explained, the orders were passed on to the church and the narcotics delivered to the Psychedelicatessen to be picked up by the customers.

According to the raiders, they found the narcotics cache in a safe in the basement of the church. When Swede refused to open it, they broke it open.

In a first-floor room the agents found an oblong table top on the floor and surrounded by several mattresses. Devotional exercises [p. 6, col. 1] were conducted there, they reported, the congregation taking drugs while Swede muttered incantations.

Psychedelic Art

The walls were vividly splashed with psychedelic paintings, and they church possessed a colour mar chine to flash varicoloured lights on the walls. There also were black lamps, which make objects glow in the dark.

On the second floor was another room which contained an altar, candles and small boxes for donations for candles.

Throughout the building were potted plants, potted in the mysterious elation sense of the word, in that they contained growing marijuana, police said.

"Difficult do Define"

Amidst the psychedelic clutter, there was one incongruous element--the place was air conditioned.

At the E. Fifth St. station, which has jurisdiction over the East Village, the girls giggled nervously as they were being booked.

Priestess Susan Swede said the religious message of mystic elation was difficult to define.

"Our church services are like a Quaker meeting," offered Elsa Schmidt. "There is no real leader. We say something when we have something to say."

Judy Mansfield paid tribute to the neighborhood. "It's a nice block," she said warmly, "and all the kids are nice to us."

Deli Raided June 22

On June 22, detectives raided the Psychedelicatessen, which was dealing in incense, candles, posters and other hippie paraphernalia, and charged the owner and four employes with selling narcotics.

Southworth Swede at that time was identified as the owner, and Bixty was among the others also arrested.

Information on the charges will be presented Tuesday to the grand jury, authorities said.

Called Genuinely Religious

In Criminal Court, a lawyer pleaded that the defendants were very religious and believed it was all right to take certain drugs, and he pointed out that Swede was an ordained clergyman.

Judge Dennis Edwards set bail at $7,500 for him and for arnica, $3,500 for Jeffreys, and $2,000 each for the others. A hearing was put down for Oct. 14.

[p. 5, col. 1]

'Cultist' Says Cop Pals 'Wouldn't Believe Me'

By William Federici

He took a shower and luxuriated. He shaved his face and smiled at the sight. It wasn't covered with a growth of shaggy hair. He was himself again.

From the bathroom in the Federal Building, he shouted: "And yu guys wouldn't believe me. I told you it was a weird place. I told you those guys were crazy."

For two months, Agent X was a member of the Church of Mysterious Elation and was anything but elated.

It Sounded Improbable

And what made it worse, no one believed him when he told of religious rites of the cut-hallucinogenic trips, pulsating lights, 13 psychedelic bedroom altars, and five bathrooms seldom if ever used for washing.

He remembered that when his contact--another agent--would ask if he got along with the people, he always answered: "Great, great most of them seldom speak unless its [sic] real important."

All they demanded was that he attend "religious services faithfully." It was tougher to fake a trip, but he got that down to a science.

Before the big raid, Agent X warned, "You guys are going to see something." And they did.

The door to the Church of the Mysterious Elation was locked when raiders arrived. They knocked on the door and rang the bell. Several windows opened on the three floors. But everyone just "stared and said nothing," an agent said later. "We were beginning to believe our boy already."

Cops and agents climbed into windows and broke the door in. The few cultists who were awake made no effort to help, nor did they ask questions.

On each of the floors they found people and cats sleeping. The people were in the nude and the cats wrapped in psychedelic rags.

"To describe it would be impossible but it was a scene right out of a nightmare," an agent reported. "Wild paintings, crazy furniture . . . tables and chairs hanging from the ceilings, marijuana plants growing in pots.

Southworth Swede, the cult's pastor, conversed with agents, telling them that he had a large following and was a doctor of divinity from a university in India.

Elsa Schmidt, one of the worshippers, first told a cop her name [p. 6, col. 2] was Venus. The cop merely told her to get dressed.

Swede's wife gathered up some of her belongings and began placing them in suitcases as it became evident everyone was going to be arrested. Smiling she told the others to gather up their belongings and put them away.

Even the Fans are Wild

Susan told one of the worshippers to turn off the fans. The fans were painted--each blade a way-out combination of colors--and as they whirred on and on, the agent himself became entranced.

Bed sheets painted in psychedelic colours were folded and put in a corner. The prisoners looked around forlornly and sighed. It had been a great pad.

As for Agent X, he sighed too. It was over for now but he had done such a great job he was sure to be back in action soon. "After all, you're an expert," his superior told him.

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